American megachurch pastor TD Jakes has said the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to have a profound impact on church finances. With congregations across the US being asked to shut their doors in accordance with social distancing guidelines, there is every reason to suggest that tithing is going to take a steep dive.
"I think across the board it is difficult to maintain the kind of financial impact that we normally would have and that's a problem because right now churches really want to embrace the community," Jakes told CBS This Morning at the end of last week. "We're feeding people, we're serving people, we're reaching out to people in need and we help to keep some sort of equilibrium in the sociological fibre of our community. If we don't have the resources to do that, that becomes difficult."
Bishop Jakes, who leads the 17,000-strong Potters House Church in Dallas, Texas, said that churches of all sizes are facing "different types of challenges" as a result of the outbreak. He also praised Potters House for being "very creative" in the way they are continuing their ministry at this unprecedented time, using live-streaming technology and digital interfaces. "We have been able to keep it going so far," he said. "Whether, we're streaming, whether we're checking on people through Instagram or Twitter or what have you, we're able to establish some level of community that we didn't have before. And I think we have to be intentional about being connected spiritually even if we're not connected physically."
At a White House coronavirus task force briefing on Sunday, Vice President Mike Pence urged American Christians to keep up their regular tithing, even if church meetings remain suspended for a while. Praising the "vital role" of the church at this time of uncertainty, Pence said he and President Trump were keen to "remind people that on the weekends that you're not in the pews, it's still a good idea, if you can, to go ahead and make that donation."
The Vice President also insisted that Americans were continuing to respond to the pandemic with "common sense, compassion and generosity."
The virus has been spreading widely across the US in recent weeks, with a high concentration being seen in New York City. There are now almost 70,000 confirmed cases nationally, with more than 1,000 deaths recorded.
Yesterday, the US Senate agreed on a $2 trillion economic stimulus package to try and save the economy from plunging into a deep recession. The emergency fiscal measures include sending a $1,200 cheque to every single American who earns under $75,000 per annum and providing the hard-hit airline industry with a $60 billion bailout.