Churches Run Broke as Congregants Hold Tithes

Bishop Peter Ambaka Addressing congregants on March 29, 2021.
  • Churches across the country have been operating on fumes following President Uhuru Kenyatta’s decision to initiate a partial lockdown on March 26.

    Uhuru declared that Nairobi and four other “disease-infected” counties responsible for the sharpest rise in cases would be placed under fresh restrictions, which included a ban on all  public gatherings such as church services and political meetings.

    Just three days later, Bishop Peter Ambaka (PEFA Church Kahawa) issued a damning statement in which he blamed the President for the third wave of the pandemic.

    Bishop Peter Ambaka Addressing congregants on March 29, 2021.

    “Our source of livelihood was taken away from us in the hope that our lives would go back to normal. However, as soon as the curve started to flatten, you and your brother Raila restarted the BBI reggae and started moving across the country,

    “I put it to you plainly Mr President that your careless actions have turned rallies into super spreaders of the virus. You and your fellow politicians are to blame for this third wave,” Bishop Ambaka opined.

    His sentiments echo the situation across most churches where the latest directive to have places of worship closed indefinitely has left leaders with no source of livelihood.

    New appeals for digital offerings in Kenya have been facing pushback from congregants sheltering at home and out of work.

    Pastor Victor Wafula of Kingdom Church (Kibra) also opened up on the dire situation most pastors are facing across the country.

    President Uhuru Kenyatta assenting to bills at State House on March 30, 2021.
    President Uhuru Kenyatta assenting to bills at State House on March 30, 2021.

    “Today the seats are empty and we will have no offerings and tithes. How are we going to survive,

    “Let’s honor God with our finances and stay faithful to him. Coronavirus should not be the reason for people not to tithe. God doesn’t change with seasons,” he stated.

    With no date set for religious buildings to reopen, innovative pastors are bringing their own brand of musical service to apartment complexes across the Kenyan capital.

    Reverend Paul Machira made this brand of balcony-sermons quite popular during the onset of the pandemic.

    Some churches have been giving parents downloadable lesson plans and videos to watch to ensure continuity of the Gospel message. Others have been welcoming members to pray over the phone, share encouraging verses or send texts with any pressing needs. They have also been mailing resources and envelopes so that members can send in their weekly offering.

    In a recent interview, Bishop Daniel Chemon of the Full Gospel Churches of Kenya said the Covid-19 outbreak has led to the cancellation of many church programs, including outreach to the needy, linked to the lower offerings as many members heed government directives and no longer come to church.

    Around 84% of Kenyans are Christian, and the closing of churches in such a highly religious country has been controversial. 

    Schools run by churches have also been shut down as securing the necessary funding to keep them up and running has proved to be near impossible.

    Economic hardships have also led to an increase in domestic abuse with some children reportedly being forced into grueling manual labor. 

    In other cases, parents are tempted by the prospect of a dowry which can be used to buy desperately needed food, so they marry off their daughters. 

    Notably, there has also been a significant increase in underage pregnancies, as life has become increasingly unbearable for many Kenyan families. 

    Some Kenyans have opined that it is time for church leaders to use their influence and savings to support their members.

    It is important to note that all churches are required to obtain Personal Identification Numbers (PIN) and register for VAT in case they transact any business that is subject to VAT and records a turnover of over Ksh 5 million.

    As at July 2017, at least three Kenyan churches were doing business with annual turnovers of between Ksh 350 million and Ksh1 billion, signalling the increased involvement by religious institutions in taxable commercial activities to boost their incomes.

    Coptic Orthodox Church, Nairobi Pentecostal Church (NPC) and Seventh Day Adventist Church are among the organisations in Kenya Revenue Authority’s (KRA) listing of taxpayers in that income bracket.

    Churches are required to file annual returns but are exempt from most taxes as provided for by the Non-Governmental Organisations and Co-ordination Act. 

    More recently, the religious institutions have increased their investment in education, healthcare, financial services, hospitality and real estate to reduce their reliance on tithes and offerings from members.

    File image of church offering baskets
    File image of church offering baskets

    Leave a Reply

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.