Summer 2024

Benjamin Watson joins initiative to help at-risk churches financially amid pandemic

The coronavirus crisis sweeping the country has brought much of America to a standstill, and many churches have not been spared from the harmful economic effects. That’s why a coalition of leading Christian groups announced an initiative called the Churches Helping Churches Challenge, with recently-retired NFL tight end Benjamin Watson as its national spokesman.

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The Churches Helping Churches Challenge will seek to assist small churches in low-income communities in urban areas that have borne the brunt of the financial strain caused by the virus. Many are at risk of closing. Individual donors, as well as larger churches and foundations, can donate to the cause, and 100 percent of proceeds go directly to at-risk churches.

This initiative will create a Coronavirus At-Risk Church Relief Fund, which will provide $3,000 grants to small churches at risk of closing within the next three months. The goal is to raise $500,000 during the month of April.

“As soon as the news broke about the virus, I felt called to support other believers,” Watson told The Christian Post. “My father is a pastor in South Carolina, and a couple of weeks ago he mentioned that many pastors were saying they didn’t think their churches could make it through this pandemic if people weren’t coming through their doors every Sunday.

“The Bible talks a lot about caring for the ‘least of these,’ and in many ways, that’s referring to the Church. As the body of Christ, we all suffer when one suffers. Many churches won’t make it through this. As believers, it’s our honor and duty to support one another. This initiative is a way we can do just that.”

Watson cited statistics from a recent Barna Group survey, which revealed that 6-9 percent of pastors are not confident that their church will survive through the pandemic. An astounding 42 percent said giving had “significantly” decreased while 28 percent said it had dipped “slightly.”

Almost a quarter of American churches have also been forced to reduce staff hours, lower compensation or lay off employees.

Watson, who officially retired from the NFL in mid-March after a 16-year NFL career, presents an opportunity for larger churches to help their Christian brothers and sisters in a time of need.

“When it comes to bridging the divide, Galatians talks about how we’re all one body, meaning our actions need to come together with our beliefs,” he said. “Ironically, something like this is an opportunity to do that. We’re talking about supporting those in our own communities, those we walk by or see at events. How do we enter into their lives in a time of need and give them bread?”

Watson said that while the uncertainty of the future may at times seem overwhelming, God is still good and He will never leave His people.

“In this time, be encouraged,” he said. “God has not forgotten you. While this pandemic has taken us by surprise, it hasn’t taken Him by surprise. We are not promised to have a great life full of comfort and no trouble, sadness or fear.

“What we are promised is that the same God who came down in human form and was there in creation is the Lord of our lives who knows what’s going on and promises to provide for all of our needs. He is with us through whatever we go through, whether it’s people suffering from this virus, persecution, or systemic racism. In the good and the bad, God is with us, and He’s in control even when things seem uncontrollable.”

Watson has already used his time in retirement to host Huddle Up, a virtual global sports gathering in which various Christ-following professional athletes join on a video call to discuss faith in the midst of the pandemic.

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