The Board of Directors of the Illinois Baptist State Association has affirmed a plan to assist churches that could be forced to stop ministry because of the Coronavirus pandemic. While pastors and leaders church leaders are dealing with questions about worship services and how to continue ministry under the current “shelter-at-home” order, the next question for many leaders involves finances. And for a small percentage of churches, the health crisis could threaten their existence.
Meeting via video conference from their homes during a statewide order to “shelter in place,” the Board heard reports from its three committees and IBSA Executive Director Nate Adams. “We’re trying to think of everything that we could be and should be doing at this time,” Adams said of IBSA’s efforts to assist churches during the pandemic.
IBSA is already offering webinars and other online resources for church leaders, including information about online giving options. Adams reported to the Board his plan to establish an emergency fund for local churches, and a process for churches to apply for assistance. “We think this is another way we can seek to help churches that maybe have the most disastrous consequences they could face as a result of the pandemic,” Adams said.
Adams said the funds will be used to help churches that are unable to pay bills or might be forced to close their doors. The Board agreed with his plan to set aside up to $100,000 for the emergency fund. While it’s not intended to cover salaries, the funds could help address a sudden, catastrophic need, such as an overdue mortgage payment or utility bills that the church has no other way to pay as a result of decreased income due to the Coronavirus situation.
An application process for the emergency fund is expected to be ready by March 31.
Coronavirus has had sweeping financial implications across the country, with economists predicting a record-high number of unemployment claims. Churches are bracing for decreases in giving as contributors experience financial hardship, and in-person worship services are indefinitely on hold.
Releasing funds from the IBSA Emergency Net Asset Account only requires approval from Adams and Board Chair Bob Dickerson, but, Adams told the Board, he and Dickerson value the Board’s affirmation of the plan and the amount. Board members expressed no opposition to the plan.
Administrative Committee Chair Bob Dyer said the committee had looked at the plan from both sides—from the perspective of churches who will need assistance, and the impact that the Coronavirus pandemic will have on IBSA’s overall budget.
“However, there is an emergency account that has been created and set aside for some of these purposes,” Dyer said. The Emergency Net Asset Account is generally used to make expensive repairs to the IBSA Building in Springfield or at IBSA’s camp facilities.
Adams said the current plan is to develop a simple process by which churches can request funds, including documenting needs in writing and demonstrating the disastrous nature of the need. He also plans to invite individuals and churches to contribute to the fund as they are able.
The Board also approved a motion that the 2021 IBSA budget be prepared based on a Cooperative Program goal between $6.2 and $6.3 million, and a Cooperative Program ratio of 56.5%/43.5% (IBSA/Southern Baptist Convention).
The proposed ratio is unchanged from the current ratio, but Adams told the Board he and the Resource Development Committee would monitor income and the ongoing global financial situation amid the pandemic, and could bring a contingency budget when the committee meets in August ahead of the full Board’s fall meeting in September.
In his report to the Board, Adams said IBSA’s recent restructuring has positioned the organization to face the new challenges brought on by Coronavirus. “Nobody was ready for it, and it’s going to hit us in ways we couldn’t anticipate,” he acknowledged. But IBSA’s focus on processes, rather than programming, and on church revitalization, gives the Association a new nimbleness as it assists churches, he said.
IBSA has pivoted to focus on needs related to the ongoing crisis, he told the Board, including a new slate of web content dedicated to helping churches navigate online services, online giving, and other challenges brought on by Coronavirus.
For more information and resources, go to IBSA.org/church-helps.