Dozens of Christian artists, evangelists, ministry leaders and pastors participated in a benefit simulcast for Churches Helping Churches that garnered 258,000 viewers and raised $191,050.13 from 748 generous individual and ministry donations.
The May 15 benefit featured performances by TobyMac, For King and Country, Lecrae, Hillsong Worship, Lauren Daigle, Kirk Franklin, and other musical artists. The event featured athletes like Super Bowl champion Benjamin Watson, MLB World Series champion Adam Wainwright, and NFL players Sam Acho and Lorenzo Alexander.
Focus on the Family President Jim Daly participated, along with other ministry and church leaders such as Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, President of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, Nicole Martin, U.S. Ministry Director for the American Bible Society, and Christine Caine, author and co-founder of the anti-trafficking group A-21.
Rajeev Shaw, Director of Church Engagement at Focus on the Family, explained Focus’ involvement and promotion of the benefit: “When we learned about the Church Relief fund and the Churches Helping Churches Benefit Simulcast we knew we had to get involved. Our leadership team quickly decided we need to support this initiative to stand with the local church and encourage others to do the same.”
Shaw said that Focus targets and supports churches with under 250 people, noting that more than “90% of churches are that size, and we want to help the leaders in these congregations with family help and resources as much as we can.”
“Giving has dropped significantly in thousands of churches, many are not sure if they’ll make it through the pandemic,” Shaw said. “Many of these churches have few if any full staff, are wearing multiple hats, and are often navigating crises with limited resources—that’s typical without the added stress of a pandemic,” he added.
In a press release, Churches Helping Churches said:
The Churches Helping Churches Challenge was launched by the AND Campaign and other Christian organizations on April 3rd to urge larger, more stable churches to assist at-risk churches in their own community. The effort also created the COVID-19 Church Relief Fund to award $3,000 grants to assist congregations in need.
To date, the Relief Fund has raised a total of $687,483.42 from 1,403 individual and ministry donations, with 100% of all funds donated going directly to churches. The Relief Fund has already given $3,000 grants to 121 churches. Because of the money raised in May, an additional 95 churches will receive grants. Throughout this month, the Relief Fund will distribute the remainder of its funds to churches, and the work will continue through ministries like Movement Day, City Gospel Movements, American Bible Society and others in cities across America.
The organization said it was started “out of a spirit of Gospel-focused racial reconciliation, as most of the churches at-risk of closing are minority and immigrant congregations in urban communities that have been hit hard by the coronavirus economic shutdown.”
Justin Giboney, President of the AND Campaign, said, “We have seen that low-income Americans, especially in urban centers, have been more likely to lose their job during this coronavirus economic shutdown. This has greatly impacted the small churches in these communities and many of them could be forced to close.”
State and local quarantines to slow the spread of the virus have led to huge increases in new unemployment claims. The New York Times recently reported that new claims totaled more than 36 million during the last two months.
In addition to record unemployment rates, businesses have been hit hard by the quarantine, with small businesses especially suffering. An April report from the group Main Street America found: “Of the nation’s approximately 30 million small businesses, nearly 7.5 million small businesses may be at risk of closing permanently over the coming five months, and 3.5 million are at risk of closure in the next two months.”
Former NFL tight end Benjamin Watson expressed gratitude for the many who participated in the event, saying, “It has been great to see so many brothers and sisters in Christ come together to bear each other’s burden and be the church. I want to thank the hundreds of donors that stepped up to support smaller at-risk churches.”
Watson encouraged believers to continue to support struggling congregations, “We want to urge Christians to keep this spirit of reconciliation going. As the impact of the pandemic will be felt for months, it’s important that Christians and churches look for ways to support congregations that are hurting in their cities.”
Churches Helping Churches announced that at the end of May it will transition from a national campaign providing direct support to empowering larger churches and ministries to support at-risk churches.
Here are three videos of churches that received grants:
- Pastor Kevin Cropper, Ark of Safety Church, Philadelphia, PA
- Pastor DevinWestbrook, Redemption Church, Memphis, TN
- Pastor Joel Ramirez, Plantando Iglesias, Minneapolis, MN
COVID-19 church relief: Churches Helping Churches
Photo from Together Generation