Nearly two thirds of US churches (64%) saw their income decline during the first month of the worldwide COVID19 pandemic, according to the State of the Plate poll conducted in April 2020 among 1,091 US pastors and church staff members. Nearly one in five respondents (18%) said their church income had declined by half or more, and 30% indicated it had declined by 20-50%.
This compares to just eight percent who said their income had actually increased during the previous month, when the US economy had all but shut down.
Eight in ten pastors said their church continued to pay full, normal salaries. One in six (17%) had spent more to offer services online, and one in ten (9%) had added features to facilitate digital giving.
As for cost-saving measures, nearly half of churches (47%) had closed facilities or adjusted thermostats, 40% had postponed spending, 36% had applied for state or federal aid, and 32% had frozen ministry program expenses. Just one in ten said they had paid partial salaries or benefits (11%) or laid-off or furloughed staff (9%). Six percent had limited their mortgage payments, and five percent were reducing their support for missionaries or the denomination.
Remote attendance of church services showed growth, with 48% of pastors reporting higher viewership after the shutdown. Seven percent said their online streaming services saw five times greater attendance, and 15% said their attendance was three to four times as many. A quarter of churches reported no change, and 29% said their online viewing had declined in the past month.
Nearly three in ten of all respondents to the 2020 State of the Plate poll (including 269 laity), said their own personal income had dropped since before the declaration of a pandemic.
A majority of the respondents (mostly pastors) said their personal giving had not changed during the first month of the pandemic. The biggest difference was that nearly four in ten (38%) said they had given more financial help to family or others in need. This was four times as many who said they had personally given less to help family or others in need (9%).
Those who gave more to their church equaled those who had given less or stopped giving to their church (12%). The same balance was true for those who gave more to non-church organizations (14%) compared to those who had given less or stopped their giving to these groups.
Methodology: Poll fielded from April 8 through 20, 2020 using an convenience sample of list subscribers to Christianity Today’s Church Law & Tax, Tithe.ly, National Association of Evangelicals Financial Health Initiative, (&)Campaign and Leighton Ford Ministries. Data not weighted to reflect actual distribution of US churches by size. Margin of error among pastors and church staff ±2.96% at 95% confidence level. Margin of error among all respondents ±2.65% at 95% confidence level.