As the economic challenges mount in the Western United States, District Superintendent Tim Jacobs communicated how EFCA West churches can prepare. There are 260 EFCA West churches in this large EFCA District and this blog is curious as to how many will fold as a result of the COVID-19 recession. This post is looking at some of the economic issues unfolding in places like Nevada, Arizona and California and offers some additional advice to the EFCA encouraging additional planning as well.
“I think it’s realistic to have hope. One can be a perverse idealist and say the easiest thing: ‘I despair. The world’s no good.’ That’s a perverse idealist. It’s practical to hope, because the hope is for us to survive as a human species. That’s very realistic.“
“It’s the economy, stupid.”
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-8 NIV
Washington Post video on the effects of the economic shutdown of Las Vegas.
The COVID-19 pandemic is hitting the United States hard. It is not equal and it varies upon the differing parts of the country. In Nevada its estimated that one in three workers is in the hospitality industry. In late March the Nevada Resort Association warned that southern Nevada would lose over $40 billion dollars from the economic shutdown. And that 158,000 jobs will be lost in the tourism industry plus Nevada tourism is responsible for 40% of the state’s general fund revenue. Within the Silver State the financial implications are expected to be twice as worse then the effects of the Great Recession of 2008. Many other areas across the American West are financially being hammered. In Utah according to the Salt Lake Tribune 150,000 people filed for unemployment since the COVID-19 pandemic began. South of Utah in Arizona the effects of the pandemic are hitting hard as well. Since mid March over 345,000 have filed for unemployment. In the week ending for March 21, 29,348 filed unemployment applications. That soared to nearly 90,000 one week later. By April 4 that number jumped significantly to 132,383 applications before going down a bit to 95,382 for the week of April 11. In Arizona each week of claims for unemployment surpassed a single week during or after the Great Recession of 2008. In Southern California the COVID-19 pandemic is both a medical emergency and economic problem with Los Angeles County hardest hit. Half of the 52,000 coronavirus infections in California are in Los Angeles County alone. As Los Angeles deals with this health emergency the shut down is affecting the local economy. According to one source 1.3 million jobs have been lost in the Los Angeles area since mid March 2020.
So here is the question what does all this economic news mean for for the 260 EFCA congregations under Tim Jacobs? Tim Jacobs has only been in this position for roughly four months now. You can read about him in the following posts. “District Superintendent Steve Highfill Leaves EFCA West as Tim Jacobs Steps into the Key District Role” and “Open Letter to EFCA West District Superintendent Tim Jacobs (On When Evangelical Christianity is Abusive Your Witness is Pointless)” What does this hard economic news mean for for places like Kevin Scott’s The Stream in Las Vegas, Nevada? What does it mean for Brian Hammonds of First Evangelical Free Church of Las Cruces, New Mexico? What does this mean for Darin McWatters of Fullerton Free in Fullerton, California? What does this mean for Scott Yetter of the Evangelical Free Church of Los Angeles? To be frank this economic news will mean quite a bit and its going to be challenging.
What Tim Jacobs is Communicating to Churches in EFCA West
You can read the communication below but to the EFCA churches in the district planning is underway and churches are being advised how to proceed and what they should anticipate. Some of what the EFCA West has communicated is the following:
- This economic news can have implications for smaller churches which could have been struggling to get by originally.
- Larger churches may have to make significant cutbacks in their budget and plan for a hard road ahead. There problems will be different.
- Within the EFCA West district there is a ministry that can help connect churches that are experiencing financial difficulties to those that can help keep them afloat. This program allows money to change hands and the EFCA West does not touch the money. From what I read below its almost as if the district matches churches up and lets them work out the challenges or issues. The money goes into the church general or benevolence fund. EFCA West is encouraging churches to plan and work on issues now before things become difficult.
- The EFCA District is communicating about Church Surviveability Planning. EFCA West is encouraging churches to plan ahead and work on programs for anticipated financial challenges. Its easier and healthier to plan and come up with a plan that can be implemented if need be. By making the hard decisions now that will help when those decisions need to be implemented. It removes the emotion from the decision making as people are thinking more clearly now. Churches should know their funding. They should know their major donors and plan accordingly if they can’t give. Likewise what about the economy of where you are at? How will the economic turmoil affect those who are employed? In addition plan now for giving to drop. Work out a plan so that if giving drops 10 or 20% or higher you respond accordingly.
Some Closing Thoughts on the Economic Challenges That Are Coming
When this economic crisis is over it would be fascinating to go through the list of churches and see which ones made it and which ones folded. These are going to be challenging times for many churches and the people within those churches. What the EFCA should also do in this blog’s opinion is create a program that helps those within the churches who may lose their job. A program that helps people make cut backs, reviews spending and can connect them with others who can assist in dire situations. These needs are usually met by the benevolence fund but this blog wonders if those funds are up to the challenges that are coming? This blog believes many benevolence funds are going to be underwater with the need being too great. The unemployment numbers are historic and breathtaking. But there is also another component to consider in this calamity. Many members in the congregations are going to develop mental health needs as the stress from this situation continues. It will actually be two fold. One side of the stress is relates to the COVID-19 pandemic. An airborne virus and the fear and anxiety that comes along with being infected. The other side is the economic that is related to job losses, closed businesses and the anticipated budget cuts that are coming from city and state government. This afternoon the Washington Post reported on the growing mental health crisis happening in the United States. Is that issue on the mind of the EFCA? If not it should be. You can’t just say “God is sovereign” and leave it at that. The ramifications from this pandemic are severe. Its my hope that people remain safe and that this troubling times will one day be behind us in the near future.
Below What EFCA West Communicated to its Churches