As in previous economic downturns, churches are facing a classic conundrum. When the economy worsens, more people turn to religious charities, food programs, and church outreach centers, while at the same time, tithe paying congregants are forced to tighten their belts and purse strings. What to do? Churches across the doctrinal spectrum are looking for new cost cutting strategies, hoping to find ways of avoiding any cuts in services and outreach.
In a recent survey The National Association of Church Business Administration noted several trends among churches. As more people turn to religious institutions for economic help, churches are finding themselves stretched thin. Pledges are down, costs are up, plans are being put on hold, and growing ministries are being scaled back. A close appraisal of the poll results paints a disheartening picture. Churches are doing what they can, but trends for giving and outlay are running in the wrong direction.
As several recent news articles have pointed out, one of the most common steps being taken to relieve local congregations of some costs, is to cut staff hours or layoff staff altogether. New hires are being put on hold and more churches and congregational headquarters are asking their staffs to take unpaid vacations. Several churches are also looking at consolidating congregations and selling off church buildings.
“Across the country — fraught with foreclosures, job lossesand other cutbacks — congregations and other religious organizations are facing the same belt-tightening challenges as everyone else.” – Adelle M. Banks of Religion News Service
As churches work to find solutions that balance financial realities with their foundational mission to serve their communities and preach the Gospel, new conversations are emerging about the role of the Church and local congregations in times of economic hardship. Speaking of Faith, a nationally syndicated radio program on religion, is hosting a series of talks and discussion entitled “Repossessing Virtue.” These conversations are aimed at helping religious communities think theologically about their task in a down economy.
Join the discussion here at LiberalEvangelical.org and let us know what your church is doing to weather this storm and preserve its ministry in these though economic times?