Greetings to you in the mist of the unknown.  Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus, in this time of high anxiety and fear.  We see how hard you are working to adapt to this new reality, and we are grateful.


There’s no way around it, this pandemic is going to be a real strain on all of our churches.  Those congregations that have resources will have a different future than those with fewer resources. This is the moment to work together. We will find out whether we are indeed One Church,  One Body, and One in Jesus Christ that we proclaim. 

 

We believe that there are resources to share for us all, and so we have gathered resources to help, at this moment.  Please let us know what else you need!


·   We are coordinating.  We’re convening the heads of regional denominational bodies weekly.  We are working with the state and Boston governments on responses.  We are hoping that you will join us to share your wisdom and struggle in open office hours.


·   Pastoral Check-in Office Hours.  We know that this is uncharted territory for pastors.  It’s hard to know where to turn for answers when no one has them.  If you are feeling isolated or like you could use some extra help, please join us for open office hours on Zoom  beginning Friday 3/20

      https://zoom.us/j/4382346652

      connect by phone by calling 312-626-2799

      Meeting ID 438 234 6652

o   Fridays 1-2 PM

o   Mondays 3-4 PM **Bivocational and part-time pastors**

o   Thursdays 12-1 PM

·   Resources, guidelines, and recommendations. We are gathering resources on our website at https://www.masscouncilofchurches.org/covid-19-response/.  We are also working with City of Boston and State government to provide churches recommendations on funerals, AA and other 12-step groups, and feeding programs. These guides will be posted on our website shortly. If there’s another guide you need, please let us know at council@masscouncilofchurches.org


·   Prioritizing the most vulnerable.  We’re making a commitment to churches that are most vulnerable, those that are 1-2 offerings away from closure, those where pastors are paid by what comes in the plate that morning.  We are working to create a Pastors’ Emergency Fund that would prioritize those pastors with working-class congregations and financially precarious lives.  If you would like to help with establishing this fund and developing guidelines for donors and recipients, please be in touch (council@masscouncilofchurches.org).


One area we’ve heard an urgent need for help is in financial guidance.  The rest of this newsletter is devoted to that topic.  We hope it’s helpful to you.  Please let us know if there is something, we could be doing that would help!  You are all in our prayers in these days as we face an unknown future.  God will remain our shelter and our foundation.


In hope,

Revs. Laura, Meagan, Kenneth, and Carrington

 
 
 
 
 

Financial Recommendations for Churches during the COVID-19 Pandemic


Dear Church,


As you know, churches are anticipating significant financial headwinds due to the disruptions related to the COVID-19. While many of the actions that have been taken are necessary, they will most likely result in increased reliance on working capital management and short-term liquidity by our churches. Complicating plans to address these issues is the uncertainty of their duration. Given the difficult position this may put our churches in, we are offering the following thoughts in an effort to support you during this time, knowing full well that the financial concerns are only a component of the overall operational concerns and of course the primary concern for the health and well-being of your communities.


As receipts are anticipated to slow due to the inability to assemble and collect offerings, church treasurers and trustees should immediately review their cash positions in order to ascertain their liquidity. However, using cash is not the only tool in your toolbox. The list below provides some additional items to consider.


Assess your liquidity


A quick gauge of your liquidity is Months Unrestricted Cash on Hand.  Simply add up all your unrestricted cash balances currently on deposit and divide that by your annual budgeted operating expenses (including scheduled debt payments) divided by 12.  Be careful not to include cash that is “restricted” and unavailable to fund operations.  For example, if a church has $25,000 in the bank, and an annual operating budget of $100,000, the calculation would be $25,000 / ($100,000 / 12), resulting in 3.00.  This would mean that in a worst-case scenario, where a church doesn’t receive any revenues, it has enough cash on hand to cover 3 months of expenses.  In addition to cash you can include short term investments and, as a fall back, long term investments, though their value would be subject to market fluctuations.


Utilize online giving


Remember that parishioners can have a check sent through their online bill pay. If credit cards are preferred to make their donation there are many providers including those listed below.


Request immediate release of credit card donations


For those congregations using services that hold payments to be deposited at an appointed time (often once per month), reach out to your service provider and ask them to deposit your funds more often.  Many providers are willing to work with you to make this happen, and we will see it more in the days to come.


Extend Payables


As you manage your working capital, review your repayment terms for your bills. Many invoices provide for a 30 to 60-day repayment term. When cash is tight, take advantage of the maximum repayment term without incurring any additional fees or costs. Furthermore, you may be able to negotiate longer repayment terms with your providers.


Reduce expenses where possible


It makes good sense to review your budgets and see what expenses are “flexible,” meaning those that can be eliminated, reduced or delayed until things become clearer. The finance committee and leadership should convene virtually or via conference call to review and prepare for action steps.  Zoom.us is a good resource for online meetings, and good old-fashioned conference calls work as well.


Review credit facilities


Lines of credit can provide some short-term liquidity. While borrowing is always an option of last resort, it may be necessary and a good idea particularly for those organizations that have long term investments but are using up short term cash. A careful review of the current market value of your long-term investments should be considered before selling assets for liquidity needs. Speaking to your investment professional prior to doing so is highly recommended.


 As an alternative to liquidating investments, a line of credit secured by those investments may prevent locking in losses that may be incurred through their sale, while providing the liquidity needed in the short term. Typically, lines secured by investments are subject to advance rates, but the pricing can be more favorable than unsecured lines of credit and most certainly credit cards. Underwriting is also more expedient; however, if your church can obtain a well-priced line of credit within the time horizon of your potential need, without pledging your investments, that is highly preferred. Each church will have to analyze its options if this route is explored. Lastly, borrowing to fund deficits is not advisable. However, should a church borrow for working capital needs, it should have an identifiable source of repayment. Hopes and dreams do not substitute for committed, pledged future contributions.


Review repayment terms on long term debt


For those churches with loans currently in repayment, now is a good time to consider whether it is possible to make adjustments to the repayment schedule of the loan.  Having a conversation with your lender before you have any trouble making payments may allow for changes to be made prior to missing a payment, which could trigger an event of default.  If you are currently paying more than the billed amount in an effort to pay off your loans sooner, you should consider whether or not reducing your payments to the billed amount is prudent at this time.  You can also request that repayment schedules be changed from principal and interest payments to interest only payments, temporarily, while you manage through the disruption in cash flow, though that is subject to consent of your lender and may require changes to the existing agreements.  Careful review of any proposed changes by your legal and financial representatives is warranted.    


We are grateful to God for this broad and diverse Christian community of support and connection.  May it bring you strength and support in the weeks ahead.

 

Grace and Peace,

Thatcher Freeborn, Treasurer

Massachusetts Council of Churches

 
 
 
 
 
 

Online Giving Platform Round-up


Online Giving is new for many churches.  Here are some trusted applications that can easily help your church get set up for online giving.  Most provide live chat help and introductory webinars.


Tithely

Tithe.ly is very easy to set up.  The Massachusetts Council of Churches used this app to offer a text-to-give option for our 400 Years Commemoration.  There is a small fee charged per transction.


Vanco/Give+ App

Rev. Meagan’s church uses Give+ for online giving.  Here’s what she says:  “We had an easy time setting it up because of a partnership with the Presbyterian Foundation—you may want to check with your denominational leadership to see if something similar is offered in your own judicatory. Giving through the Give+ app is easy, and you can also link to an online giving page on your church’s website.  There is a small fee charged per transaction, individual givers can decide if they would like to cover the fee."


Givelify

Rev. Kenneth’s church uses Givelify and Paypal for giving.  Here’s what he says: “Givelify is great because it gives you the opportunity to give through any smart phone and website. You can also give to a direct cause such as tithes, offering, scholarship fund, etc. The money goes directly to the organization’s bank account. There’s a slight fee but it’s not as expensive as other online giving tools.”


Paypal

The Massachusetts Council of Churches receives gifts through Paypal.  It’s easy to set up with your organization’s address and bank account information.  A fee per transaction is charged.  A benefit to Paypal is that it is very widely-known and used by many people already.


Bill-pay through bank

Members can set up payments to you via their online banking services.  These will be paper checks that arrive in the mail, so take into account if there will be someone monitoring your mail and if the correct financial officer and procedures (i.e. two people when counting money) can be followed.


Venmo and CashApp

These require an individual’s cell phone number to open an account, which might violate your church’s rules on how money is received, counted, and tracked.  If this is easiest and the best way your community can collect online donations, go for it.  The Massachusetts Council of Churches does not recommend these apps because of the lack of oversight or ownership by the church itself.


 
 
 
 
 

In a time of crisis and chaos, we need coordination, clear information and care. The Massachusetts Council of Churches is a credible network responding to the real needs of churches so they can serve their local communities well. If you believe in this work, we ask you to give now. 

Give one time or set up a monthly donation from our website by clicking on the "donate" button below!  Thank you for your faithful  support.
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masscouncilofchurches.org      |     (617) 523-2771
 
 
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