A Chemistry Conversation with Dave Travis
Dave Travis is the Strategic Counsel to Pastors and Church Boards at Generis, and in this Chemistry Conversation with Co-Founder Todd Rhoades, we discuss the K-shaped economic recovery that he sees happening right now and what that means for pastors and church leaders.
- What the K-shape recovery is
- A third 'band' or layer of individuals that bring the K-shape recovery into perspective
- What you should NEVER say to your church during this time about money
- What American's increased savings during this period mean for non-profit and church giving in the future
- How long you should plan for 'irregular operations' in your church due to the virus
- You can find out more about Dave here
- Subscribe to Dave's brand new email newsletter, Church Leader Insider
- Listen to Dave's newest podcast here
We'd love to hear how you're doing in this season. As always, we are here for you, and we're praying for leaders, churches, and teams all over the United States!
Read the Full Transcript
Dave Travis: Hi Todd.
Todd Rhoades: Dave is from Generis and we're going to talk about a really interesting topic today. Dave, thanks so much for joining us. We're talking obviously about everything that we've been going through for the last five, almost six months now if you can believe that. Talking about some of the economic recovery and what that means for churches. Just to get us going here, I think we've all heard President Trump and different economists and everybody talk about what this economic recovery is going to look like. And they use these letters to kind of say what they think the economy is going to do. We hear President Trump a lot of times talking about a V shaped recovery, which is, just it's in the shape of a V. It's going to take off right now. A U shape is what I've heard as well, which is a little bit longer recovery, maybe a year or a few seasons to go through. It'll recover fairly quickly but just not a V shape. Then there's the L shape that I've heard a lot of news reports on that talks about a longer recession. It's going to take probably not months but years to recover. But you wrote in your brand new email newsletter - and we'll share with everybody a little bit later how they can get a copy of that - you write that there's a different kind that you're kind of looking at, and it's a K shape. So tell me a little bit about what the K shape recovery looks like, and then we'll talk maybe more specifically about what this means for pastors and for churches.
Dave Travis: Sure. So the article that I was referencing I read about a month ago, and it described how there's - we already knew that there is great inequality in the US. That's true in almost every economy by the way in the world. It's just different degrees of inequality. And I think we also have to look back just for one second to January and February this year were records for our economy. Our unemployment rate was low. The real unemployment rate was even lower. Even people were coming who had kind of retired from the workforce were coming back in. So the job rate was very high. So this recession just whacked a lot of that. So the K shape, basically it says, hey individuals look different than the national economic trends. So we have on the upper-line of the K, we have people who have done really well during this season. About 67% of college graduates can work from home. So their jobs were fairly stable for many of those people, and they kept on working, maybe even worked some more. In fact, their wealth income have actually increased over the last five months. So part of what we need to look at is how many of those people are in that mode. The decline line, why they call it the K shaped is there's also this line that have been hit really hard. 22 million people lost their jobs, only 9 million of those have come back. We don't know if the other 11 million will come back. Some will, some won't. How long will those people be without work. Most of those who were in the decline mode make less than $20 or $30 an hour. So that's everybody in the lower-income tier. That means the restaurant, the retail sectors, the hospitality sectors have been severely hit. And so their fortunes have declined over that season. We've had some governmental support, which has propped up some of that decline. But now some of that support is running out.
Todd Rhoades: Gotcha. So it's almost like - you hear about the "haves" and "have nots," or you hear the phrase "the rich get richer, the poor get poorer." That's really kind of what you're saying, right, with some of the economists saying this K band is those - some people are doing actually much better now than they were in February, and then there's another segment of people that are doing much worse than what they were in February. But the thing I really liked about your email newsletter article, the most recent one and the first one actually, is that you say there's actually a third band that's really important for church leaders and pastors to look at.
Dave Travis: Yeah, there's a third band in there. That's folks that are holding their own. Many times in churches, you have people who were already retired. They're on social security. They're on some other pension plan or program where their income is steady or slightly rises each year based on their investments and other things. And so we have a - I won't say it's a third of people, but there's a core of people where their income has held steady, and it's not really changed. In fact if anything on both the upper level and on this what I call the stable area, because expenses have declined for many of those people, meaning they're not eating out as much, they're eating at home more, they're not traveling, they're not commuting, they're not spending as much on gas, and of course gas prices have dropped. They actually have more margin than they did before all of this happened.
Todd Rhoades: That's interesting. You link in your article to an Axios article that you drew some of these findings from and where you're riffing from. But you mentioned expenses have gone down, but savings have also gone way up. According to that article back in February - I thought this was fascinating - in February, the US savings rate was 8%. In April it was 32%. Now a lot of that they say in that Axios article was from that top tier, the wealthy that are getting wealthier. They have more money. But also there's decreased expenses and they're cutting back, so they're saving more. But I think across at least through that top tier and that middle tier that you're talking about - and I hear this with churches as well - expenses are going down; they're really watching their expenses, so they're cutting back. And they're kind of holding onto some money right now, right?
Dave Travis: Yeah. Well, we saw this in the last recession. The savings in the US was very low before the last recession. Then the recession hit, and our savings rates went up. In fact, I think they peaked around 2011-2013 at about 13%. But 32%, we're two and a half times that. Some of that is a government stimulus check that people mostly took and put in the bank. They didn't spend. Unless you're in that lower declining thing where you really needed that. Some of that, even for those in the downward slope of the K, there were some rental and mortgage abatement programs where they could skip a payment or they could extend their payments. That created some more margin for those people in that category, so that's part of what's going on there.
Todd Rhoades: Yeah. So let's just cut to the chase here. So what does this mean for churches? You bring some great points up. One of the things that you mention was that kind of a myth that a lot of pastors and churches have out there right now is that during this time everybody's hurting, and we just shouldn't ask people for money during this time. We should kind of shy away from that because everybody's kind of in the same boat here. Push back against that a little bit.
Dave Travis: Yeah, so I think the national media narrative is that we're in really hard times here. And I think that's very true for a lot of Americans. I am not trying to minimize the pain that has happened through this pandemic. I think the hard times though for many others that may be on the upper part of the K or maybe even the middle part of the K is we're disrupted in other ways. I mean, hey, we're recording this in the week where school started last week here in my state, and we can't send our school or if they are going to school the hallways are too crowded. And so the pain is felt in other ways. I think people have been reticent, pastors have been reticent. They're saying, "Hey, I know everyone's out there hurting." Everyone's not out there hurting. There are some people doing very well and who want to share with others and who want to provide for their church. But they need to know what they can do to be a specific help. I think the same thing for the middle level of that K there, Todd. There are some very faithful givers in that category, and we need to encourage their faithfulness and thank them for their faithfulness and even give them extra opportunities to be faithful and to be generous during this season. I think it's okay to say, "Look, I know a few of you out there are hurting. And we want to provide some ministry to you, but we need to know. Please come talk with us."
Todd Rhoades: Well, just saying, "some of you are out there hurting" rather than "everyone out there is hurting" is a totally different message. And just looking at those savings rates that we just mentioned, there's got to be a lot of pent up generosity there that at some point will be unleashed in your churches as we move forward.
Dave Travis: Has the potential to be unleashed if we ask for it.
Todd Rhoades: I was just going to say that, absolutely, but you do have to be proactive and have a plan and a vision just like before, right, so that you can get people to be able to be willing to share and to give, right?
Dave Travis: Absolutely. I think especially in the upper level of the K. There's was also some legislation back when the CARES Act and the PPP money kind of started that helps higher-income donors to give more this year. They have to give it in cash, and they have to make it happen this year in 2020 that actually has some carry-forward provisions. I'm not the tax expert. Please do not consider this tax advice. But we've got to ask for it. So the university I attended, some other local non-profits, they are aggressively encouraging people to give, to help support them, not only in this season, not just say "hey, upkeep is a lot," but "here's what we need to be doing on our campus and our other ministry to make good things happen." I think churches need to do the same thing. Here are some things we've had to add to our ministry. Here are some retrofit we needed to do. Here's some technology that we need to improve to engage people during this season. And can create special gifting opportunities. They may not broadcast that to everybody in their church. They may selectively set up sessions, whether that's one-on-one or small groups, with people that they feel are doing well that they can cast this vision for.
Todd Rhoades: Perfect, perfect. Our time is almost up, Dave. But as we close out, I want to pivot here just a tad bit. So we talked about maybe those three different bands for individuals and for families. Does this translate to churches at all? In that, I mean some churches, their constituency is maybe more of that white collar, the more top tier. Other churches have maybe a constituency, a congregation of maybe the lower-income people. How does this K shape show itself in the life of a church moving forward? Are we going to see the wealthy churches prosper? Are we going to see the lower-income churches vanish because they can't make it? Or maybe it doesn't have any relatability at all, what are you thinking?
Dave Travis: I would say a couple things. It does have relatability. First of all, I have not found a church yet that didn't have people in all three categories. I will agree with you that some churches, their constituency tends to be people on the lower end of the socioeconomic scale. That's their constituency. Even within that, there are people that are holding their own. They're on fixed payments kind of plans that can help and assist a church. I think the churches that are actually - I'll take it a different direction, Todd. I think the churches that are going to prosper, be on the upper level of the K are the ones that are quickly reordering and reprioritizing their various ministries and realizing this is a great opportunity instead of a great problem. And so they're the ones that are going to prosper in this season as they change. I think the harder ones are saying, "Hey look, because we can't meet, we know this is sub-par ministry. We know this is not what we want. And we're just kind of going to let is coast here for the next season." And quite honestly Todd, we're looking at a few years of irregular operations in my view. And they're the ones that are going to decline in their constituencies. I think the ones that decide to hold their own, kind of do it half-heartedly, they'll just hold their own instead of prospering. I think this is a marvelous time for the great improvisation, for folks to think longer term and say how do we want to reorder, reprioritize our ministries over the next few years, and now's the time to do it.
Todd Rhoades: Gotcha. I heard you say you think it's going to be two years of - how did you put it - abnormal?
Dave Travis: Irregular operations. At the Atlanta airport, when there's weather event and they have to shut down the airport, they go into what they call "irregular operations mode." Hopefully that lasts about 45 minutes, but sometimes as my friend Reggie McNeal always said, "the Atlanta airport decides that their real purpose is to get people there and to hold them there" instead of get people back on their other plane. But I think we're in for a longer season of irregular operations. That's not to say that things won't begin to return to normal, but I think the mindset of people that we need to start talking about with leaders is, hey this is going to be a two-year irregular operations season where things aren't going to be what it was.
Todd Rhoades: Gotcha, gotcha. Great advice Dave. Appreciate you taking some time with us. Before we go, I want to lead people, and we'll have links to this as well, but to two different resources from Dave. First of all, if you just want to find out a little bit more about Dave and his work, he's the Strategic Counsel to Pastors & Church Boards over at Generis. You can go to generis.com/dave-travis. We'll have that link. And then I would highly recommend Dave's brand new email newsletter. It's called "Church Leader Insider." Now Dave normally works with larger churches, so this email newsletter, just so you know, little disclaimer, has a lot of content for larger churches. But you're going to be able to learn a lot even if your church is smaller. Just know that Dave does a lot of consulting with larger churches, so it's a little bit more based toward that. But we'll have a link to that as well. Anything else closing Dave that you'd like to wrap up?
Dave Travis: Yeah, if you do go to churchleaderinsider.substack.com and subscribe, you'll also see a link to my new podcast, "Great Things God Has Done." That's an interview podcast with pastors, and this past one was with Toby Slow at Cross Timbers Church. It's really just the story of their life. And so we've recorded a bunch of those where people are telling their life story and how the great things God has done in and through their leadership. I think folks will find it interesting.
Todd Rhoades: Perfect. Thanks so much Dave. I appreciate it.