How is your ministry doing? New survey tells the story

I’ve talked with a lot of ministry leaders over the last three months. Quite a number are faring well through the pandemic, but others are suffering significantly reduced revenue and ability to serve. Some are in very desperate circumstances and my heart and prayers go out to them.

One good thing I’ve observed is that many ministries are using this time to creatively rethink how they do ministry and to make changes that were probably due anyhow. A question you might have is, “How are my peers getting along? Is what I’m experiencing what they are experiencing?”

With CCCC as a research partner, WayBase released a survey this week that gives a window into the pandemic-related experiences and responses of 3,100 ministry leaders from across Canada.

Survey question
Used with permission.

Key survey results

A few takeaways from the survey are:

  • Roughly 32,000 Christian ministries have $15 billion in revenue – we are a significant sector of society
  • The types of ministies that responded (church, education, camp, etc) reflected the make-up of Christian ministry quite well. For example, 77% of Canadian ministries are local churches, and local churches comprised 75.8% of the respondents
  • The hardest hit ministries are camps, retreat centres, and educational institutions (which makes sense)
  • There haven’t been a lot of closures yet (less than 1%), but that number is likely understated as many closed ministries probably would not respond to a survey
  • Smaller and rural charities are more likely to be temporarily closed or have reduced services
  • A strong majority in all categories of ministry and across all parts of Canada have suffered reduced income, mostly between 10-50%, although 31% of churches have lost 50-100% of their revenue and that percentage is much higher in the “other” ministry category
    • Evangelism, discipleship, and welfare ministreis are doing better than the other categories in minimizing their losses
  • Three quarters of ministries have added or prioritized online services and one third now offer different services than before to meet needs created by the pandemic
  • Employment so far is fairly stable. Two thirds of the respondents have not reduced salaries or laid people off. The exceptions are the three sectors that have suffered the greatest revenue decline: camps, retreat centres, and educational institutions.

Multiple giving options are crucial!

What I find very surprising is that for those ministries with reduced revenue, the number one reason they give is “We are unable to receive donations because we aren’t meeting physically.” It sounds like they had only one way to receive donations – the offering plate (most of the respondents being churches). I’ve been told by some churches that they didn’t set up other ways to give because they did not want to pay transaction fees. But given how people make payments these days, over time there will be fewer and fewer people willing to write a cheque or even have a chequing account.

The answer to their revenue problem is quite simple: implement electronic giving, and if your congregation has older people who are not online or who prefer to write cheques, offer them other ways to get their cheques to the church. CCCC produced a guide to help churches set up additional ways for people to give. If churches and other ministries create alternatives to the offering plate, they should do well because half of the respondents who reported increased donations said the number one reason was “We expanded our giving options (e.g. online giving).”

The future

The concensus seems to be that revenues will continue to decline over the next three months, with most expecting a return to normal revenue levels over the next three years. This makes it imperative that all ministries do everything they can right now to improve the probability of their survival. Few, if any, ministries have cash reserves of more than a few months, so they should be making changes in how they receive donations, intensifying donor enagement, strategyzing

I encourage you to review the survey. You may be inspired to try something new. And you may be encouraged to know that others are having to adapt just as you are.

Here’s the English version and here’s the French version.

May God bless your ministry!

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