Regional Grant Serves as Timely Stimulus for Local Congregations
By Carl Stagner
At the start of the pandemic last year, one encouraging story emanating from the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States went largely unnoticed by the rest of the country. But isn’t the way it’s supposed to be with random acts of kindness and with generosity? When the CDP—the Chesapeake, Delaware, and Potomac region of the Church of God approved a grant that any congregation could apply for, they had no intention of making a show of what they had done. Their concern was solely with the local churches of their district, covering Maryland, the District of Columbia, northern Virginia, and Delaware. After all, the COVID-19 crisis had caught many congregations off-guard and ill-prepared for the technological strides and financial hurdles that would come their way in the months that followed.
The notice, published in the CDP newsletter, included an acknowledgement of the unfolding crisis and a recognition that it “may have an economic impact on your congregation and its ability to minister effectively.” CDP leadership further detailed the available grant, which would offer up to $3,000 for “urgent needs, such as utilities, mortgage/rental payments, upgrading technology to assist in reaching people during this pandemic, and community outreach expenses.”
Though the stimulus required a formal request, the process wasn’t meant to exclude any church. In fact, Max Ware, who serves both as pastor of Cornerstone Church of God in Columbia, Maryland, and also the chairman of the elder board of CDP Ministries, explains that the grant was designed to be accessible by all their churches. “We just asked churches to state their need and what the dollars would be used for,” he recounts. “We put it in our newsletter and advertised it for six months.”
Ultimately, not every church took advantage of the grant, but many did, and not one applicant was turned down. Best of all, the churches blessed by the stimulus are under no obligation to reimburse; this grant was considered nonrefundable.
“We hope that this action will be a blessing and benefit to your ministry and that it will enable you to keep doing ministry during these difficult and constantly changing times we are living in,” the newsletter notice went on to communicate.
But how did the CDP decide to offer the grant, and where did they come up with the money? The answer lies in their history, their desire for stewardship, and their determination to sow seeds into the future. Max Ware reflects on his chairmanship for the past eight years and the healthy balance the district had carried in their bank account. Some of these funds were derived from churches that had closed at one time or another. Even with the sorrow that accompanies such a closure, the CDP recognized the need to bring life from death—it was time to sow seeds of life into congregations that were struggling amid the pandemic. Putting action to their vision of “Celebrate, Disciple, and Partner” (with their congregations), CDP leadership knew it was time to help prevent another church from closing and instead help encourage each one toward new growth and health.
“When COVID hit,” Max explains, “people were scrambling to improve social media. Churches were dealing with decreasing funds without online giving. So, the elder board came up with the idea that we should not just hold onto the money, but distribute to those in need.”
For several years, God has been sparking new life into the CDP region. It’s an exciting thing to see, and encourages Max greatly. He looks forward to the variety of ways the district can work together to build each other up and advance the kingdom of God. “God is a God of vision,” he concludes. “Without a vision, a people perish. We have to be open to what God is doing. You don’t make your own wave; you find out where God is moving and try to catch that wave.”
In so doing, the CDP elder board, comprised of Cheryl Sanders, Jeffrey Tomlinson, Bob Buehler, Audrey Boudreau, has identified a variety of ways to support their churches going forward, including the opportunity to have a safety net through the ability to obtain loans for urgent needs, such as HVAC or roof repair. Through the strength of the district, each church has proved, and continues to prove, that they are stronger—and better—together.
For more information about the CDP district of the Church of God at www.cdpchurches.org. Learn more about the response of Church of God Ministries to the coronavirus (COVID-19), including resources for you and your church, at www.jesusisthesubject.org/theway.