COVID-19 did not have the devastating impact on church finances that many feared it would. Most congregations did not have to seriously cut budgets or lay off staff during the uncertainty, anxiety, and week-by-week adaptation to the pandemic. Many did, however, have to find ways to tighten their belts. A study of more than 1,000 congregations by CT’s sister publication ChurchSalary and Arbor Research Group found that some churches cut administration costs (41%), some delayed building projects or repairs (28%), and some reduced giving to missions and benevolence (10%).

Around 15 percent furloughed or laid off employees. Across denominations and geographical regions, that works out to about 50,000 churches laying off associate ministers, youth ministers, discipleship pastors, worship leaders, administrative assistants, and other staff.

By the summer of 2023, signs of the havoc caused by the pandemic had mostly receded from congregational life in America. For some who once felt called to work for a church, however, the pandemic was a personal hinge point: Their careers have not returned to a prepandemic “normal.”

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