DALLAS — Churches that aren’t cutting their budgets due to the economic downturn are, by and large, taking measures to curb expenses, according to a survey the National Association of Church Business Administration has done of its members.
The organization — the professional society for church administrators of all denominations — released the study Feb. 20. It found that 57 percent of the congregations represented by members surveyed had experienced a slowdown in contributions.
Thirty-two percent of the churches’ administrators said the dip was “not common for our congregation this time of year,” while 25 percent could not say for certain whether the downturn was due to the economy.
Meanwhile, 30 percent of the respondents said their churches were “doing okay” but “not seeing strong growth in financial support.” Twelve percent said their giving was “strong” and continuing to grow, while only 1 percent said their financial support was “very strong.”
Twenty percent of the respondents said their churches had been forced to lay off employees and 26 percent said they had postponed a major capital project. Nearly half — 47 percent — said they had reduced or frozen staff compensation packages.
Phill Martin is NACBA’s deputy chief executive and a veteran Baptist church administrator. He said the 32 percent of members who believed the economy had definitely affected their congregations was much higher than the 14 percent who thought so when they answered a similar survey in August.
“I think we are starting to see more pain felt — although nothing like in the private sector,” Martin, who is also a member of Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas, said.
Martin noted that it is often more difficult for churches than businesses or secular non-profits to judge whether the economy is responsible for a dip in contributions or if it owes to some other factor, such as church conflict or the a lack of a pastor.
“Our local ABC (TV) affiliate came and asked me to give them the names of five churches in (economic) trouble,” he said. “But I can give you five churches in trouble when the economy’s in good shape.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Marus is managing editor and Washington bureau chief for Associated Baptist Press.)