Admin. Services, Board of Pensions help churches during time of financial crisis
By Kara Witherow, Editor
It’s been three or four weeks since South Georgia United Methodist congregations have gathered in person. While on-site worship services have been cancelled, the church’s ongoing mission and ministry continue. Most are holding online worship services, via Facebook or another method, and they are continuing to reach out and serve their communities and members.
In the midst of this pandemic, one practical concern for churches is how not meeting in person will affect the spiritual discipline of giving.
To help local churches during this crisis, South Georgia’s Administrative Services Office has created an online giving platform for churches to use if they don't already have online giving in place. Using the Conference’s existing technology, the platform allows users to securely pay their tithe online, via credit card or debit card, by filling out a short online form.
During this time when congregations aren’t able to gather in person, the South Georgia Conference will pay all fees associated with online giving so 100 percent of the tithe will go directly to the local churches. All gifts are tax-deductible.
“I’m concerned about the ministry of our churches,” said Dr. Derek McAleer, Director of Administrative Services. “Their ministries will be vital in the next months, and we can’t let our lack of physical presence stop our ministry. I hope an easy to use giving platform will help our faithful Methodists across South Georgia continue to support their churches.”
Before Lizella United Methodist Church even had its online giving portal set up, church leaders were pleasantly surprised to find that money had been donated. They appreciate the free service from the Conference, said Rev. Josh Gale.
“We’re looking forward to promoting this avenue of giving until all this is over,” Rev. Gale said. “After that, who knows; maybe we learned some things and we’ll find a way to offer that service to people ourselves.”
Lakeland United Methodist Church’s last in-person worship service was Sunday, March 15. The congregation has gathered virtually, via Facebook Live, since.
While the church has money in the bank and is, so far, doing fine financially, Rev. Rick Hamilton is using this opportunity as a way to introduce online giving to his congregation.
“This can help move the congregation forward to embrace online giving,” he said.
In his weekly email newsletters, he reminds members of giving options and includes options to tithe, including the new online giving portal.
“I really think that we’re going to see a lot of fruit from this. We’re going to be stronger on the other side of this,” he said.
The Conference Board of Pensions has also announced a “HealthFlex payment holiday” for the church portion of the clergy health insurance for the months of April and May 2020. This is for clergy appointed to local churches or to extension ministries, as long as they are on Conference HealthFlex insurance or Medicare.
In addition, President Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) into law on Friday, March 27. This Act is intended to provide financial relief to individuals, businesses, and non-profits from the economic impact of the coronavirus. The Administrative Services Office is keeping our conference updated as churches navigate how this Act can help them.
If your church would like to use the platform or if you have questions about setting up online giving, email or call Dr. Derek McAleer (478-738-0048).
For more information about online giving, visit www.sgaumc.org/online-giving.