Churches, Recessions, and Budgets

Everyone appears to be tuned in to the economic news. There’s not much to get excited about. We’ve seen some significant bankruptcy filings recently; more are certain to occur in the months ahead. I read an article today which included some statistic information related to religious institutions. According to the writer, donations through (notice the word “through” instead of “to”) the Cooperative Program of the Southern Baptist Convention were down almost 5 percent as compared to the same period last year. December receipts were 29 percent lower.

What I found interesting about this article was the historical recessionary effect on church giving. There have been six recessions between 1968 and 1995. According to Empty Tomb, Inc., giving declined among Protestant denominations half of the time while it increased the other half.

While a number of factors figure into a congregation’s finances, it was interesting to note the success of “special” offerings. Churches may struggle with budgetary issues, yet humanitarian and social relief programs are well supported. From personal experience, I can identify with that statement. Our budget fell short less than 2 percent of last year’s giving and at the same time we exceeded our International Missions goal by nearly 10 percent.

I like the quote from a pastor in the article, “We realize that when we’re at this place economically, we have to remember what we’re about and fund things essential to who we are.” I think that’s the strategy for 2009. Our recession (you might as well admit it) will challenge us to minister out of our priorities.