USMB congregations found creative ways to assist individuals and families in their churches and communities as states issued stay-at-home orders and businesses closed in an effort to minimize the spread of the coronavirus. In some cases, churches revamped existing ministries to meet the abundance of needs and in other situations initiated new programs to minister to those in crisis. This is one example.
Leaders of Lighthouse Church in Denver, Colo., have created a program to help meet the financial needs of those in the congregation experiencing hardship due to the COVID-19 crisis.
The CARES Program, begun in early April, provides strategic, practical assistance to members and regular attenders.
Shayna Laing, pastor of spiritual formation, says the idea for the program came after an individual who had lost their job and were worried about providing for their children contacted church leaders. The staff was able to connect this family with another that had reached out previously after feeling that the Holy Spirit was prompting them to provide for a financial need.
“It originated with that initial need … and how the Holy Spirit had already provided,” Laing says. “We wanted to see how he would amplify that as we made something formal.”
The staff recognized that while many families in their church body needed their coronavirus relief check, for others it was a surplus. They specifically encouraged the congregation to consider donating part or all of the payment to the CARES fund.
Those requesting assistance fill out a detailed application online that is reviewed by staff and elders. If the application is approved, funds are distributed directly to the vendors to which funds are owed, such as a landlord or utility company. The application also allows staff to assess what other resources may be useful for the individual or family longterm.
Laing says the first family to receive funds was grateful specifically for the immediacy of the support, as it allowed them time to assess their situation.
“It gave them the peace of mind to think critically and make the necessary changes for their family” (after the job loss,) Laing says.
As of mid-May, the Lighthouse congregation had donated $11,000 to the CARES Program. Laing expects they will continue to maintain and use the fund in its current form for several months even after restrictions in Colorado ease. Then the program will transition to a benevolence fund.
While the pandemic has and will continue to tangibly affect the way congregations gather and operate, Laing says Lighthouse Church’s heart of ministry is unchanged. “The mission that Jesus gives his church can and should operate in any given scenario,” she says.