Over the last two weeks I’ve had the opportunity to visit a handful of local churches in Northern Illinois. We got together to consider the future…their future as local churches and the future of the United Methodist Church.

And let me tell you, these weren’t happy, high-fivin’, big-picture thinking sessions buzzing with positivity. There was a fair amount of concern, hand-wringing, and frustration – some of it freely shared and much of it simmering just below what apparently was considered appropriate to say out loud.

Without a doubt, there is an overflowing basketful of reasons a local church might feel stuck in trying to find a way forward right now. The swirling currents of cultural and demographic changes, internal congregational challenges, and our denominational unraveling have many congregations felling like the turtle on its back: a lot of flailing effort, but the predicament doesn’t really change. They feel stuck. You and your church might feel stuck, too.

Here are three practical steps that might help your church get back on its feet.

Though this is a not-fully-informed guess, I would estimate that among the top three concerns of many congregations as they consider their future is the money. I know, I know. The roots of the present plight experienced by local UM churches, in many respects, has to do with, well, becoming detached from our theological, doctrinal, and missional roots. But the immediately pragmatic matter of money comes up in every conversation I have with pastors, church members, and congregational leaders.

How come? It’s simple, really.

The pandemic has battered congregational vitality and called into question the viability of many churches. New initiatives to reach and serve the communities in which the churches find themselves seem out of reach due, in part, to additional cost. And the prospect of choosing to discern and, possibly, disaffiliate from the UMC carries not only significant financial impact but also a short timeframe.

It might seem like just too much.

Here are three practical helps for your local church. Share this information with your church leaders and friends.

  1. Apply for Employee Retention Credits

Your church might be eligible for the Employee Retention Credit that is available from the US government (yes, to churches, too) for retaining pastor(s) and staff during the pandemic. Want to know more?

The Wesleyan Covenant Association is partnering with the Provisum Group to help local churches receive these grants (they are not loans) which can help the present finances of your church.

If you want more information, attend the webinar this coming Tuesday, September 6 at 6 pm central time. Here is the information and the link for you to attend via computer, tablet, or smartphone:

Webinar with The Provisum Group on Employee Retention Credits

Tuesday, September 6, 2022 at 7pm Eastern/4pm Pacific/6 pm Central
This is GoToMeeting – not Zoom

WCA- Employee retention Credits
Tue, Sep 6, 2022 7:00 PM – 8:00 PM (EDT)

Please join the meeting from your computer, tablet or smartphone.
https://meet.goto.com/238947989

You can also dial in using your phone.
United States: +1 (646) 749-3122

Access Code: 238-947-989
Get the app now and be ready when your first meeting starts: https://meet.goto.com/install

  1. Check out low-interest loans for major financial needs.

Some churches are struggling with existing mortgages or loans. Often these are adjustable-rate loans or mortgages and the current rise in interest rates is causing some sleepless nights. In addition, for churches contemplating disaffiliation from the UMC, the cost of “unfunded pension liabilities” is sometimes more than the congregation can undertake with resources on hand or readily available.

The WCA recommends checking out the Wesleyan Investment Foundation. This foundation is not part of the WCA but was formed about 80 years ago as a spin-off from The Wesleyan Church. They have a large resource base and exist expressly for assisting churches and mission organizations by providing low-interest loans.

Want more information?

The WCA has arranged for a Zoom webinar by the Wesleyan Investment Foundation on Monday, September 12, at 6 pm Central Time. You and/or other church leaders can log in to see if this could be a financial resource for your congregation.

Here is the link and information:

Webinar with the Wesleyan Investment Foundation on Low Interest Loans

Monday, September 12, 2022 at 7pm Eastern/4pm Pacific/ 6 pm Central

Topic: Webinar w/Wesleyan Investment Foundation
Time: Sep 12, 2022 07:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting
https://us06web.zoom.us/j/87829658621?pwd=Q1NwSTg5QnlDSFN5cnI2dHltY2xlZz09

Meeting ID: 878 2965 8621
Passcode: 913202

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  1. Come to our fall Northern Illinois WCA gathering on October 23rd

Standing at the Crossroads: Methodists Finding the Way to a Faithful Future
Sunday, October 23, 2022
3-5 pm

The Stronghold Retreat and Conference Center
1922 Illinois Route 2 North
Oregon, IL 61061

We’re looking forward to our special guest presenter:
Rev. Jay Therrell, President of the Wesleyan Covenant Association

Bring members and leaders from your church to find information, networking, encouragement, and a full dose of inspiration!

I hope to see you in the webinars over the next two weeks and IN PERSON at our fall gathering on October 23rd.

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REV. DR. SCOTT FIELD

REV. DR. SCOTT FIELD

NIC Clergy/Retired
Resource Networking Coordinator
Northern Illinois Wesleyan Covenant Association

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