Tough economic times may
result in stronger, healthier and smarter churches and Christian ministries,
according to Dan Busby, president of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability.
In times of economic stress,
contributors prioritize giving. So, local congregations and programs that
provide “safety-net” assistance for people in need generally have been most
successful in attracting or retaining donors, Busby noted.
In fact, the Salvation Army recently reported Americans gave a record $139 million last
Christmas to its Red Kettle Campaign, which provides more than 28 million
Americans with food, shelter and substance abuse treatment.
Anecdotal evidence indicates
many individual congregations have fared better than most parachurch ministries
during months of recession, Busby added.
And just as tight dollars
force contributors to make hard choices, economic stress also should prompt
churches and Christian ministries to set priorities.
“Those that are able to
redirect their focus may come out healthier than if the recession had not
occurred,” he said. “Churches and ministries should focus on their core
When times are good,
ministries tend to create new programs and expend energy promoting them, he
noted. But when times get tough, smart ministries focus on their central
Congregations and related
Christian ministries can prepare for hard times by “building margin into
ministry,” Busby urged, rather than operating on a razor-thin edge.
Desperate times can lead
trusting people to desperate acts, and churches in financial trouble should beware
of fraudulent perpetrators of get-rich-quick scams, he recommended.
“It’s human nature to want
the best deal and the best return on one’s investment. But so many times,
people don’t learn from history. If it looks too good to be true, assume that
it is,” he said.
In a tight economy, churches
should take special precautions against embezzlement and fraud, Busby advised.
“As Christians, we often let
our guard down. We’re the most trusting people. Too often, we don’t institute
internal controls, segregation of duties and other basic business principles at
church that we know make sense anywhere else,” he said.
While many churches spend
time and money on security systems to protect themselves, they fail to put in
place simple checks and balances and internal control mechanisms to guard
against misuse of funds, he noted.
“Most funds that disappear
from the church coffers disappear after the offering is safely in the bank
account,” Busby said.
practices protect churches from losing their credibility, he added. When
financial scandals hit a church, dollars lost to the church budget represent
the least important loss, he stressed.
“The negative impact on the
kingdom of God is hard to measure, as people get disenchanted with the local
church,” he said.