Church pastors facing destitution as tithes dry up in Covid crisis

(Photo: Open Doors UK & Ireland)

Pastors around the world are facing destitution and even starvation because of the devastating impact of Covid on church tithes.

The pandemic has forced churches around the world to close their doors, which has in countries that rely on cash giving led to severe financial hardship for the pastors. 

Many are struggling to feed themselves, let alone give anything to those turning to them for help, Open Doors UK and Ireland has warned. 

Pastor Joel, from India, whose name has been changed for security reasons, is one of the many church leaders to have been affected by the financial crisis. 

"The church has had to be closed, leaving us with no support or any source of provision," he said. 

"As a family we cried unto God for his help and provision."

With so many daily wage earners left unemployed or unable to work by the pandemic in poorer countries, finding alternative sources of income has been virtually impossible for some of the pastors. 

Jyothi, whose name has been changed for security reasons, said: "I am involved in pastoral ministry, and due to the lockdown, we are unable to continue with ministry or any church activities.

"We are left with no source of income and are unable to meet the family needs, there are even no menial jobs to earn money.

"There were various relief distributions carried out by the local administration but we were not given priority and were ignored for being Christians."

Jo Newhouse, Open Doors' representative for sub-Saharan Africa, reported a similar situation there. 

"Because of sharply reduced income, churches have been unable to pay pastors and other church workers," Newhouse said. 

Pastor Adane, who has ministered in rural Ethiopia for 20 years, said that Covid had affected all of the church's income streams, making it impossible to pay staff. 

"Because of Covid-19, the church is in great trouble," he said.

"While churches were closed as part of the government lockdown, nobody could come to church. We had no income to pay the pastors and evangelists.

"Before, there were people who helped support ministry workers, but now they have stopped.

"The church used to have many streams of income but now it has all stopped."

Open Doors' Asia Communications Director Jan Vermeer said: "Normally, when Christians suffer, the church is where they turn to for help.

"But with Covid-19, the church pastors can barely look after their own families, never mind the streams of people who come knocking on their doors for help.

"Everywhere we turn we're seeing the same dire situation. Pastors whose income is based solely on giving from members of the church don't have anything to eat."