By Doug Talley
Last January I was reading about ministry trends for 2020 and beyond. A trend identified by one group of writers was, “There will be a large percentage of church building foreclosures.” The basis for the trend was:
- long tenured baby boomer pastors retiring which will result in people leaving the church (including some who give generously),
- global recession including millions losing their jobs due to automation (800 million in 10 years),
- churches that build beyond their ability to pay anticipating that new people would help pay for the building,
- lower incomes so less discretionary spending dollars,
- generational shifts (Builder and Boomer generations have financed church construction projects in the past, but Gen X’ers and Millennials aren’t likely to do so at the same levels. Plus, Millennials are likely to make less than their parents and are also likely to spread their charitable giving around to various entities).
I was depressed. This was just weeks BEFORE COVID HIT. As I processed this information, I was feeling like many local churches were going to struggle like never before. I didn’t want to think about it. Nor did I want to consider how this might impact nonprofits, such as state ministries.
The article I was reading referred to a book written by Mark DeYmaz titled The Coming Revolution In Church Economics. I ordered the book and began reading. As I reflected on financial trends and Mark’s book, I became aware that if we (pastors and church leaders) don’t get out in front of this, then our ministries will be blindsided, and the mission will be negatively affected. I thought, “Maybe we need to introduce this at our annual meeting in October.” I mentioned this to Tom Planck, and he said, “I know just the person.” He started an email thread introduction between Mark DeYmaz and me. We made arrangements to bring Mark in as our resource person for our annual meeting. Since Mark pastors a multi-ethnic church, I also wanted him to keep our conversation going about racism.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Many businesses and churches were hit hard financially. If not for the PPP Loan/Grant from the government, some churches would have shuttered by the end of summer. As the COVID shut down lingers, more congregations and ministries are feeling the financial pinch. In addition, during this season multiple Black people were killed by police and the push for social justice and racial equality was front and center and still is. In the last five months there has been a major concern about these two subjects (economics and racial equality/social justice).
I believe that our annual meeting focus is timely. Michael Thigpen and I recently had a lengthy conversation with Mark DeYmaz via Zoom. His passion for both social justice and church economic health was apparent. He is deeply committed to the mission of the church and believes that the COVID-19 pandemic has presented the local church with an incredible opportunity to reposition or repurpose itself to impact its community for Christ.
I hope you can be part of our annual meeting on October 5. We are providing two ways to participate: in person and online. By registering, you will also receive a link to the recording of Mark’s sessions, so you can still benefit even if not available October 5. As is our custom, we will have lunch brought in and will have our annual business meeting during lunch.
We ask that you practice social distancing and wear masks while at the meeting. We realize people have different comfort levels when it comes to being around others during this season, and we want to be sensitive to that. Some of you simply are not in a season of life to be physically present. We totally understand. Please do not feel like you are letting us down if you choose to engage online. Fortunately, we are at Madison Park Church again (Thank you to Pastor Paul Strozier and staff) and have plenty of room to socially distance even during lunch and breaks. If you want to visit in close proximity with friends at the meeting, make sure they are comfortable with that level of physical engagement. And, yes, Mark DeYmaz will be with us in person. Let’s be sure to respect his personal space during the day.
Like you, I’ve missed gathering with pastors and visiting churches during this year. It is indeed a peculiar and unprecedented season. I am looking forward to our time together even if it will be a bit weird not being able to hug you all!