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Help Is on the Way for Churches

April 29, 2020

The Christian Reformed Church in North America has launched a Church Engagement Fund to help congregations in the United States access financial resources — both private and public — to help them weather the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The idea came from Colin Watson, acting director of the CRCNA. This is a new program taking on a fresh and yet realistic look toward how the church can help sustain congregations in the months ahead.

“For many congregations, COVID-19 has been a challenge, but one that they have been able to manage,” said John Bolt, director of finance and operations. “They have been able to shift their systems to set up weekly worship through a virtual gathering of their congregation, online giving options, and other means of continuing their essential services.”

But for other churches, the situation is different. Many smaller congregations with limited staff and financial resources are struggling in the face of COVID-19.

“We have heard from a number of leaders who indicated that they have not been able to provide any kind of worship service. They may not have online giving capabilities, or their members are so impacted by COVID-19 that they cannot give,” said Bolt. “Other churches are struggling with overwhelming needs for pastoral and congregational care to impacted members.”

In the midst of all this, the denomination has asked what it can do to help. In Canada this has included connecting congregations and classes with many government programs that are available to them. In the U.S. it has led to the launch of this new fund.

“We want to meet the needs that are not being addressed elsewhere. Some churches have been really hammered, and we want to help them. We know that the need is great,” said Bolt.

Assistance will be connected to the Financial Shalom Program of the CRCNA, which seeks to alleviate some of the key financial challenges facing CRC pastors and their congregations by offering support for immediate financial needs as well as long-term training for financial management.

And so, in response to COVID-19, the Financial Shalom Program has launched the COVID-19 Church Engagement Fund to help ensure that all churches — especially smaller, rural, or ethnic-minority churches with limited capacity — are well supported and can continue to minister in their local communities well.

The COVID-19 Church Engagement Fund is sponsored by CRC Financial Shalom with generous gifts from Resonate Global Mission, Back to God Ministries International, specific CRC congregations, and individual members.

Applicants may seek funds for bivocational pastor support, mortgage support, benevolence funds, community engagement, food pantry supplies, utility payments, video/media equipment, or anything else that could help a congregation continue to carry out their ministry during this time of pandemic. Grant requests will be considered as they come in, and funds will be distributed according to perceived need.

“There are churches that just can’t reach into the community like they could before,” said Bolt. “Maybe they can’t pay the light bill, and we can help them. Hopefully, this will help to build bridges between the denomination’s ministries and churches, and we can walk across it together.”

In addition to the COVID-19 Church Engagement Fund, the ministries of the CRCNA have curated many resources and tools to assist congregations in their work. Visit regularly to see the latest posts.