Some churches have obtained PPP mega loans. A few have tiny ones.

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(RNS) – When Reverend Janet Gullickson learned that churches would be eligible for Paycheck Protection Program loans at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, she took action. Gullickson, pastor of Love Power Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, knew his small Pentecostal congregation might need a helping hand to pay their bills after worship services closed in March 2020. The PPP loan sounded like a deal. windfall. So Gullickson contacted a local bank and applied. She was aiming low, figuring the church only needed about $ 7,500.

Instead, the church received $ 75.

The Love Power Jesus Mural is a well-known landmark in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Google Maps / Religious News Service)

“Somehow I made a mistake,” Gullickson said. “When I got home, they just said it was too late. I couldn’t fix it. So I said, ‘Oh, well, you know, God provides.’ “

More than 123,000 religious groups have been approved for PPP loans, according to data from the Small Business Administration. The loan to Love Power Church – also known as Love Power Music and Miracles Ministries – was the smallest and one of three loans under $ 100. The other two went to a small start-up church in Georgia and a gospel dance ministry in New Jersey.

Sixteen religious groups were approved for loans under $ 200, while 75 groups had loans under $ 500 and 299 had loans under $ 1,000. These small loans went mostly to churches or individuals – the rules for PPP loans allowed self-employed people to apply. A Hindu temple in Arkansas has also been approved for a loan of $ 780. Two churches obtained loans of $ 666.

While some mega-churches – like Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, run by televangelist Joel Osteen – requested multi-million dollar loans, small loans for church groups were more common. According to a RNS According to an analysis of SBA data, about 23,000 loans to religious groups were less than $ 10,000, while almost half were less than $ 25,000. Of the 123,083 loans made to religious groups, only about 13,000 were over $ 150,000. These larger loans accounted for about $ 5.5 billion of the more than $ 9 billion P3 loans approved for religious groups.

The loan data reflects the larger reality of the divide between very large congregations and small congregations. While mega-churches and large congregations make most of the news, the middle congregation is small, with around 65 people attending weekly services, according to 2020 Faith Communities Today investigation, with an annual budget of approximately $ 120,000. The study of national congregations 2018-2019 find that two-thirds of congregations have fewer than 100 people. A previous version of this study found that most congregations (74.5%) had no debt.

For some smaller congregations, navigating the PPP loan process has been difficult and the results disappointing.

Arise International Ministries, a non-denominational church in Cocoa, Florida, asked for what church leaders thought was a $ 2,400 PPP loan. The loan turned out to be $ 240.

“We believe we have submitted everything that needed to be submitted,” said Reverend Latardra Fuller, senior pastor of the church. “However, this is the result we got.”

After consulting with a CPA, Fuller said church leaders realized they had made a mistake in the application process. Ultimately, they concluded that a loan would be more problematic than it was worth.

“We decided this wasn’t a road we had to take,” Fuller said. “It really didn’t help us.

Fuller, who founded Arise with her husband in 2012, has been a pastor since 2005. Her first church was a congregation founded by her parents, Feed My Lambs Christian Ministry, which she took over as pastor after her father died. The small loan did not slow down the church’s ministry, she said. Members of the predominantly black church of about 35 people continued to tithe during the pandemic. In addition to Sunday services, the church offers Bible studies, mentoring, and other family support services, as well as a youth outreach dynamic.

“We are blessed to keep moving forward,” Fuller said.

Segun Idowu, executive director of the Black Economic Council of Massachusetts, says the payroll protection program had a number of significant flaws that made it more difficult for small organizations to obtain loans, especially organizations run by blacks. For example, black companies in Massachusetts, he said, were less likely to be approved for PPP loans than white companies, in part because the loan program favored large organizations that already had existing relationships. with lenders. The same was probably true for black churches, he said.

The program also had a first-come, first-served approach, with no reservations for minority-owned or women-led organizations, or groups that needed more time to apply. This made it easier for large groups to obtain loans.

“The process just wasn’t in place to help the people who really needed it,” he said. “Ultimately, the program was put in place to get the money out as quickly as possible.”

All in all, the SBA reported that 11,823,594 PPP loans were approved for a total of $ 799.8 billion – loans to religious groups representing a very small percentage.

After learning that many small churches had encountered problems applying for loans, the Massachusetts Council of Churches held webinars to provide more information and interviewed member congregations about their experiences. The group also helped a small denominational credit union at Messiah Baptist Church in Brockton, Mass., Qualify as an SBA lender for the P3 program, which led to seven church loans totaling of approximately $ 150,000.

For at least one congregation, a small loan was all they needed. Christ Church of Love Inc. of Columbia, South Carolina, borrowed $ 380, which was later forgiven. The pastor of the church said RNS the loan corresponded to the needs of the small church.

Congregations that got very small loans tended to be regular-sized churches like Salem Lutheran Church, a 133-year-old congregation on the outskirts of Correctionville, Iowa, about 30 miles east of Sioux City. Founded by German immigrants, the church attracts a few dozen people most Sundays, church member Nora Clausen said. RNS. The congregation, which shared a pastor with another nearby Lutheran church, borrowed $ 496.

Confusion with a PPP loan proved to be a headache for Love Power Church, at least at the start of the pandemic, when the church was not meeting.

“It was a bit of a struggle with the closure of the church,” Gullickson said. “It just picked up when we got back, and I guess we were successful.”

Founded in 1978 by a charismatic minister named Ann Sandell, the church has for decades done street evangelism and prison ministry, distribute food, and run a clothes closet. The congregation is perhaps best known for the Love Power Jesus mural – which adorned the congregation’s long-standing home on Washington Ave. in Minneapolis – as well as for its longtime radio and television ministry, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Artist and athlete, Sandell, who died in 2018, suffered a crisis of faith after losing two children to rare diseases. In her forties, she rediscovered her faith, which led her to teach Bible studies and later found Love Power, according to her obituary in the Star Tribune. Gullickson became senior pastor eight years ago, having served as associate pastor of Sandell from 1986. Her husband, Rick, is also pastor at the church. The church remains small but active, with around 35 members.

“We are a smaller but very engaged church,” said Gullickson.

She describes them as a church in Matthew 25, a reference to Jesus’ famous parable of the sheep and goats, where those who fed, clad, and sheltered those in need are welcomed into the kingdom of God.

“We love people,” Gullickson said. “We love the gospel. I really feel like people are going through a difficult time – and there is hope in God. So, we are here to encourage people and strengthen them with the word of God.


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