Local churches adjusting to less donations during COVID-19 pandemic

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sunday services are taking shape in different ways.

Congregations that once filled pews are now filling parking lots for drive-thru communion. Other congregants are opting for online service.

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"It's crazy streaming the service," says North Park Community Church Pastor Bob Willis. "I mean, the hardest thing in the world is talking to an empty room."

Willis moved his Sunday service to the website. Even though his view from the alter has changed, he keeps a reminder of each member of the church while speaking.

"This gives us a tool to stay connected even when we're not together," he said.

He says donations are 75 to 85 percent of normal, but there are other churches feeling the impacts of social distancing even more.

"Giving is the lifeblood of the church," Willis said. "Without that, we couldn't do what we want to do. If you read through the New Testament, there were people who supported Jesus and his disciples. They even needed money to do ministry."

In a poll conducted by the National Association of Evangelicals, more than six out of 10 churches are seeing offers on the decline.

"There's roughly a third that saw a 10 to 29 percent drop, so churches are having to adjust," says State of the Plate Spokesperson Brian Kluth.

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While the State of the Plate survey found roughly half of the churches polled saw two to five times more attendance in online viewing, 22 percent saw a drop of 30-50 percent in donations.

"Obviously the big concern is are they going to be able to pay their pastor, pay their staff," Willis said. "That's why we have a Bless Your Pastor movement, and we give churches free materials and ways to take care of their staff.

Churches also use donations for missionary work, benefiting vulnerable populations in town and around the world.

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