About seven in 10 Kenyans are no longer tithing as they used to before the Covid 19 pandemic.
Most hit are small churches, with some claiming their programmes have completely stalled while others are unable to maintain their pastors.
“Never again are we going to put all our eggs in one basket,” says the Worldwide Gospel Church of Kenya.
The church’s Githurai Presbytery, at the border of Nairobi and Kiambu counties along Thika superhighway , says tithe may have dropped by 66 per cent.
Its churches have been unable to pay salaries and other bills like electricity, rent, and water.
A study on how the church is coping during the pandemic, by John Miatu Thiga, a bible studies lecturer at the Pan Africa Christian University, Nairobi say things have never been worse.
He had interviewed 50 pastors of the Worldwide Gospel Church of Kenya – Githurai Presbytery through emails and WhatsApp Messenger with the majority reporting a hard time for the church, pastors and their flock.
“The church finances were depleted and as such, the church was unable to meet its financial obligations” says Thiga in the study published in May in the journal Impact: Journal of Transformation
Half of the churches, the pastors said have been forced to borrow money to pay their bills. At the same time, 66.6 per cent reported an increase of economically needy cases amongst their members.
The pastors said their churches had indeed experienced a decline in their finances as giving went down.
Much of this was attributed to members losing their jobs, businesses and hustles as the pandemic related, lockdowns and limitations continued.
“They explained that the number of those tithing had declined even among those who were still employed.”
They also observed some unwillingness to give even among those who are still in employment.
This they attributed to the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic as no one knows how long it will continue. “Such people are just cautious and want to retain what they have.”
But there are some of the diehards who have remained faithful in their giving and paying their tithes no matter what every month.
On the other end, the reports say are those who had grown cold spiritually and even no longer wished to attend church. “This is despite the injunction in Hebrews 10:25: “.do not neglect the gathering of brethren.”
Some of the pastors owned to losing some of their sheep to established churches, especially those with TV stations and who welcomed membership no matter the location.
“We lost dependable members to other established churches who took advantage of the lockdown to present some of their best programmes on TV.”
However, they say they have learnt and next time they won’t be caught flat-footed. Henceforth they will invest in income-generating activities and stop relying wholly on tithes and offerings for the running of their activities and projects.
The study respondents cited examples of established churches such as Christ is the Answer Ministries (CITAM) and the Methodist Church who were never affected by the COVID-19 restrictions.
CITAM, they said never even rushed to have in-person services when the window was opened allowing a few members to attend services.
“We are going to learn to “make tents” besides our work of preaching like Paul did,” they have promised.
Thiga recommends pastors to start earning a livelihood outside the church to cushion themselves from similar effects in future.
“They should also, invest in technology so as to be able to reach their flock all the time.”
By Gatonye Gathura