Donor support for faith-based institutions is usually rock-solid, but in the current economic crisis even churches are scrambling to deal with a decline in giving, the Wall Street Journal reported Aug. 11.
The Bent Tree Bible Fellowship Church outside of Dallas, for example, had to cut $6 million from its budget by freezing staff salaries and cutting back on cleaning expenses and lawn care. Five staff members were laid off, including one pastor.
Other churches are going over their budgets to reduce waste or reducing staff as donations and offerings decrease. “Ten percent of zero is zero,” said Bent Tree member Bryan Keith, 39, an unemployed engineer. “I can't tithe without a job.”
Meanwhile, requests for assistance — spiritual and otherwise — have increased. Some churches have been foreclosed on, while many others have halted construction projects.
The economic climate for religious groups is the worst it has been in 30 years, said Richard Klopp, associate director of the Lake Institute on Faith and Giving at Indiana University. “This is the topic of conversation for congregations,” he said. “All other conversations have ceased.”
Religious leaders have tried to find a silver lining, reminding churchgoers that times of hardship present an opportunity to reconnect with God.