Crown Financial Cautions Churches About Taking Coronavirus Stimulus Money

Chuck Bentley: "For a church to be in such dire straights this early in the crisis as to require a portion of the $350 billion program raises questions about how well its leadership is communicating with their congregation and whether repaying the loan/grant inside the two-year window would even be possible." - Faithwire

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T Howard's picture

I, too, would be cautious about a church taking a government loan. My humble opinion: the church should never need/take government money to operate. If God's people don't/can't support God's church, then we need to rethink how we're doing church.

Chuck is right: if a church needs to immediately take out loans to support the church after <1 month on lockdown, there are underlying financial issues at the church.

Mark_Smith's picture

They told all these businesses to shut down and ordered churches to not meet. So, the government is making up for it so to speak. As long as there are no strings attached, which there do not seem to be from the sources I read, I think it is not just acceptable, but reasonable to take the help if you need it.

Joel Shaffer's picture

"The amount of loan forgiveness can be up to the full principal amount of the loan and any accrued interest. That is, the borrower will not be responsible for any loan payment if the borrower uses all of the loan proceeds for forgiveable purposes described below and employee and compensation levels are 14 maintained."

As the Exec. Director and representative of Urban Transformation Ministries (UTM) http://utmgr.org, yesterday I applied for the loan based on the advice of one of UTM board members who is the CEO of an area bank in West Michigan.   We applied for it because the Covid19 crisis and Government response have messed with my schedule in meeting with different Foundations where we obtain grants from (about 25% of our funding). Here is the link where the quote above came from.  https://www.choiceone.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/PPP-FAQ.pdf     

As long as you use the loan towards payroll (at least 75%) and Mortgage/utilities and etc..., the loan is forgiven.  This was a no-brainer for us. 

Jay's picture

Bart Barber had a really good take on this as well the other day at his blog.

It is for this reason that I have never sought out bake sales and popcorn sales and other gimmicks for the funding of church ministries: I believe that it is God's design for the churches that the faithful worship of believers through their gifts be the mechanism by which God will bless the various ministries to which He leads His people. I would support nothing that would supplant this holy means of funding God's work; indeed, I wish to support nothing that would even de-emphasize it.

Second, when money from outside the family of faith comes to the rescue of God's people, the result can be the diminution of God's glory among men. Abram's rationale in Genesis 14 is instructive at this point. When he refused to receive spoils of war from the King of Sodom, "Abram said to the king of Sodom, 'I have lifted my hand to the LORD, God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth, that I would not take a thread or a sandal strap or anything that is yours, lest you should say, "I have made Abram rich."'" (Genesis 14:22-23, ESV). When our church emerges from this coronavirus crisis, I want us to know, as Abram did, that it is by God's goodness that we have made it through.

Not everyone will see it this way, and someone will say that God brought them through BY WAY OF government assistance like CARES. People of faith will know that God works in many ways, and that God-ordained government is an agent by which He often works to accomplish that partial, imperfect, temporary justice that we can experience here below. 

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Bert Perry's picture

Smiling as I contemplate the reality that with government, there are always strings attached.  Now certainly government types won't always admit as much, but reality is "he who pays the piper calls the tune."  

Wrong to take the money?  Decide for yourself whether the risk is worth it, I guess.  But all in all, don't forget that the government tends to wriggle its way in.  Plus, we'll all be paying all of this back in our taxes at some point in the future.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Joel Shaffer's picture

Smiling as I contemplate the reality that with government, there are always strings attached.  Now certainly government types won't always admit as much, but reality is "he who pays the piper calls the tune."  

Wrong to take the money?  Decide for yourself whether the risk is worth it, I guess.  But all in all, don't forget that the government tends to wriggle its way in.  Plus, we'll all be paying all of this back in our taxes at some point in the future.  

UTM has had several opportunities to pursue government grants and chose not to pursue them because of actual strings attached, especially when it comes to religious liberty issues. The sticking point is usually hiring of LGBTQ folks and/or "proselytizing." There is nothing in the loan that addresses those issues.  The Forgivable loan is through the Bank, not directly through the Government. It is temporary. The only strings attached are that you use at least 75% towards payroll (the rest towards the mortgage, utilities, and etc..) and you don't lay off your workers.

It is true that it eventually comes back to us taxpayers, but the legislation has already been passed and the loans are going to be distributed fairly soon.  I'd rather have part of my taxpayer money go towards small businesses and faith-based Christian organizations and evangelical churches that proclaim the gospel than have it go towards small businesses combined with only the liberal, progressive churches and ministries that have no gospel who have no qualms taking advantage of an indirect government subsidy.   

T Howard's picture

I have no problem if a Christian charitable organization wants to use this provision. I don't think it's wise for a church to do so. Better to reevaluate how you're doing church than to ask government for a hand out.

For example, my church currently has a mortgage on an addition. We are making extra payments on this loan to pay it off early. If finances get tight, I'd rather reduce the extra principle we're paying on the loan than ask the government for a handout. We also have 3 months of expenses saved in case of emergencies. I'd rather use that during this time instead of asking the government for a handout and keeping the 3 months of savings.

Mark_Smith's picture

Two months ago there was a rock'em sock'em economy. Then the governments out of concern for the virus told tens of millions of people they can't work. Now, even good tithers have nothing to give! So, I don't get the hesitation. This is NOT a hand out, or "charity." It is replacement for the funds they prevented you from getting.

Mark_Smith's picture

T Howard wrote:

For example, my church currently has a mortgage on an addition. We are making extra payments on this loan to pay it off early. If finances get tight, I'd rather reduce the extra principle we're paying on the loan than ask the government for a handout. We also have 3 months of expenses saved in case of emergencies. I'd rather use that during this time instead of asking the government for a handout and keeping the 3 months of savings.

Good for you. Glad you have that cushion. Now don't judge other churches that don't have that option.

Mark_Smith's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

 "he who pays the piper calls the tune."  

You mean the big givers run the church?

Bert Perry's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

 

Bert Perry wrote:

 

 "he who pays the piper calls the tune."  

 

 

You mean the big givers run the church?

Yup, and then you've got the question of whether it's safer for big private donors to do so, or the government.  You have hazards with both, but my general take is that private donors are far less hazardous than government donors.

Now hopefully the promise holds and the government will not insist on a greater say in church government.  However, history suggests this is at best a dangerous assumption.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Mark_Smith's picture

That's right Bert. Remember the old adage... "just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get you!"

Paul J's picture

With the requirement to shelter in place we have all of the staff working from home.  A couple of the provisions in the FFCRA allow for FICA credits for salary continuation for a couple of reasons appropriate to on non-pastoral, (no housing allowance) staff.  Within the provision, we can pay two-weeks salary for those who can not work from home and receive credits for future FICA expenses.  Also, with the revised FMLA we can pay staff who are unable to work because of closed schools and daycare 2/3 of their salary and receive FICA credit for future payments.  These are much different in my opinion the loans and something to consider.

Bert Perry's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

That's right Bert. Remember the old adage... "just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get you!"

I'm thinking more Santayana's "those who fail to heed history are doomed to repeat it."  That, and "If it seems too good to be true, it probably is."

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Mark_Smith's picture

If government is that untrustworthy and that eager to destroy churches, they can take you out anytime they want to! They don't need an excuse. They'll just make one up.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Mark_Smith wrote:

That's right Bert. Remember the old adage... "just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get you!"

I've always been in the other camp -- just because you're NOT paranoid doesn't mean someone isn't out to get you.

Or, as I learned when I was little -- "In God we trust -- all others pay cash."

Dave Barnhart

Bert Perry's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

If government is that untrustworthy and that eager to destroy churches, they can take you out anytime they want to! They don't need an excuse. They'll just make one up.

They could, yes, but in reality, even the dictatorships of the 20th century (and 21st in places like China and Vietnam) tend to at least pretend to hold to a pretext of justification for what they are about to do. If they do not, they lose the support of those they need to hold the whole shebang together.  You can get people to work as gulag guards when the pretext is the prisoners are actually enemies of the state.  If word gets out that the inmates (and guards) are all just there because Stalin is a paranoid nutcase with syphilis (which he likely was--there is actual forensic evidence for this), they start showing up as empty guard towers and once-precise accuracy with their guns goes south in a hurry.  That's why it's important to pay attention to the question of, whether or not the law specifies a degree of control (I did and do concede it does not appear to), whether the law can be reasonably interpreted as giving the pretext for control.

In other words, you've got to assume the law will at some point be interpreted by people who hate your guts.  If you don't like the likely consequences, you might want to avoid signing on for taking advantage of that law.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.