Illinois Baptist State Association to Help Churches During Pandemic

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (BP) — The Board of Directors of the Illinois Baptist State Association (IBSA) has affirmed a plan to assist churches that could be forced to stop ministry because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. While pastors and church leaders are dealing with questions about worship services and how to continue ministry under the current shelter-at-home order, the next question for many leaders involves finances. And for a small percentage of churches, the health crisis could threaten their existence.

Meeting via video conference from their homes during a statewide order to shelter in place, the board heard reports from its three committees and IBSA Executive Director Nate Adams. “We’re trying to think of everything that we could be and should be doing at this time,” Adams said of IBSA’s efforts to assist churches during the pandemic.

IBSA is already offering webinars and other online resources for church leaders, including information about online giving options. Adams reported to the board his plan to establish an emergency fund for local churches, and a process for churches to apply for assistance. “We think this is another way we can seek to help churches that maybe have the most disastrous consequences they could face as a result of the pandemic,” Adams said.

Adams said the funds will be used to help churches that are unable to pay bills or might be forced to close their doors. The board agreed with his plan to set aside up to $100,000 for the emergency fund. While it’s not intended to cover salaries, the funds could help address a sudden, catastrophic need, such as utility bills or an overdue mortgage payment.

An application process for the emergency fund is expected to be ready by March 31.

The pandemic has had sweeping financial implications across the country and caused a record-high number of unemployment claims. Churches are bracing for decreases in giving as contributors experience financial hardship, and in-person worship services are indefinitely on hold.

Releasing funds from the IBSA Emergency Net Asset Account requires approval only from Adams and board chair Bob Dickerson, but Adams told the board he and Dickerson value the board’s affirmation of the plan and the amount. Board members expressed no opposition to the plan.

Administrative Committee chair Bob Dyer said the committee had looked at the plan from both sides — from the perspective of churches who will need assistance, and the impact that the pandemic will have on IBSA’s overall budget.

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Source: Baptist Press