How a recession/depression will affect the church

How a deep recession or depression will affect the church.

What would you add?


Chris said...

Wow, I was bracing myself for the worst, but some of these consequences seem like they might actually be healthy.

Robin said...

I think Chris is right.

While it won't be easy, if we go through a recession/depression, it might end up for the greater good. Would it hurt for us to learn to live below our means? Would it be a bad thing if we were less materialistic? Western culture (and some parts of the east, too, like here in Japan) has become way too consumeristic; we're spoiled rotten. Maybe we need to learn the hard way...

On the other hand, as a missionary I wonder what it would mean for the future of missions. With less income, churches and individual Christians are less likely to support missionaries. Would we end up sending out less missionaries, or would we change the way we fund missions? Or would missionaries have to learn to live on a LOT less -- like missionaries of past generations did, to the point of suffering?

This is so long I should just post it to my own blog... But one more thought: If any non-Americans (like me) reading this think that this won't affect us if it happens, I disagree. With the world economy being what it is, and America being such a huge part of it, we are ALL in for a rough ride.

Chap said...

our church is already beginning to make these considerations. we are currently in the middle of a building project and beginning to see shorfalls.

we have always been a fiscally conservative church and took a step of faith based on both wisdom and faith--sometimes you just have bad timing.

here is what we are in the process of determining as our list of cuts when and if needed...

1. covering our shorfall through other revenue sources
2. general operating budget cuts
3. missions (we consider them part-time paid staff)
4. part-time staff to full-time ministry staff

I'd be interested to hear what/if churches are making plans for economic turmoil and what they are planning to do.

Anonymous said...

Well, with all the budget cuts, pastors may get back to what they were originally called to do...study to shew themselves approved as workmen of God and to serve!

Hey, then maybe there would be a chance for a revival!

I heard a man preach just yesterday which I only hear once every couple of years. He has been in his pulpit at least 10 years and he has nor more depth than the day I first heard him preach. It is sad. Very sad as he has the capability for much more!

You are correct, budget cuts may, in the long run, be very good for the church!

Take away the toys and the boyz can't play! Maybe then then will study and preach!

Chap said...


can't argue with your specific circumstances since what you say is true across the country, however, perhaps it reveals laypersons own over-satiated spiritual appetite disguised as cynicism and consumerism... in which Paul addresses the "spiritually mature" with kidnegarten talk. Paul's view specifically is that how we live out our faith is more important than "depth".

Consider the meaning of 1 Cor. 3
1Dear brothers and sisters, when I was with you I couldn’t talk to you as I would to spiritual people. I had to talk as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in the Christian life. 2I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food, because you weren’t ready for anything stronger. And you still aren’t ready, 3for you are still controlled by your sinful nature. You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other. Doesn’t that prove you are controlled by your sinful nature? Aren’t you living like people of the world?

shawnbarr said...

Our offering the Sunday after the "crash" dropped $5000 below the average for the last day of the month. About a 25% drop for us.

I see this affecting us in the following ways:

1) delaying our building renovation project.

2) freeze on wages for 2009.

3) freeze on filling positions.

4) missions - we'll give the amount we committed to but not participate in special missions projects.

5) eliminsate equipment and facility improvements.

Overall, we'll focus on the basics of our ministries (worship, evangelism, Christian growth).

But isn't that what we should be doing anyway :-)

Anonymous said...
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Mark Schnell said...

While I don't agree with all the things anonymous is saying, or the tone that is being used, I do agree with one thought. Maybe churches will move away from all the toys and gadgets just because they aren't affordable anymore. The electronics that we use in our churches today aren't bad in and of themselves. They are often incredible tools to communicate truth. But for too often they take the place of sound exegetical preaching and teaching and a focus on worship. Maybe our worship services will become more "unplugged" in style. I hope so.

Elizabeth Glass-Turner: named Bitty by quirky Canadian said...

Well, I think both churches and other partner nonprofits will be both highly needed and seeing a drop in their incomes - the nonprofit I work for is experiencing that now.

So creativity is essential in meeting needs of your community: more people will come to you for bread, gas money, help meeting fueling bills. Even if they qualify and ask for government help, it takes weeks or months for the paper work to go through. Churches need to be networking with community food banks, senior citizen centers, and other churches to make sure the community needs are being met efficiently and effectively.

There is never a time to be stingy with help for families in the community, but now especially is a time when it is never appropriate to question recipients with a hazing of hoops to jump through. Careful with your resources, yes. But these ministries absolutely must uphold the dignity of people on the receiving end, or your witness is completely lost. While I don't agree with every stance in "Take This Bread," it's a great book for showing a generous model of a food pantry.

Interestingly, it's also a great time to pull out some old-fashioned practices that have recently regained popularity as "green" - though in fact they're just Depression-era values. Community gardens are a great source of abundant produce in the summer; soup and bread dinners and potlucks; carpooling; even...walking.

I've thought a lot about the constitution of the British during the years after WWII...and Coach, I love your sentence about wanting both guns and butter. It was years after WWII when the British finally went off of rationing. While the Yanks had "Victory gardens", Brits made do with powdered eggs, ration books for stamps to buy new clothes only so often, and very limited butter and sugar. So yes, I think redefining what is essential is very important.

I'm willing to sound like a nerd - not the first time - but I really believe the last few Harry Potter books are extremely helpful resources for facing widespread adversity, for encouraging character building, and for keeping the big picture front and center. Themes of the battle of good and evil, the discipline of personal sacrifice, the pain of grief and loss, etc. - some of the best literature I've ever read, a la LOTR and C.S. Lewis. I recognize those in other cultural contexts may not find it wise to draw on them, but in North America, where the challenge isn't witch doctors, but rather disbelief in the supernatural, I find them extremely good.

John C. Gardner said...

I believe that our country has been profligate and that we are now beginning to reap the whirlwind of debt and expansion due to too much spending. Our churches will experience these hard times also since we have not developed habits of tithing and supporting the Body of Christ. We don't want to tell the members and attenders in congregations that finances are part of our responsibilities to God(Father, Son and Holy Spirit). We must return to being morally and financially virtuous as we root our very beings and our corporate lives as part of the church in Christ.

Kris said...

I believe the bi-vocational pastorate will increase as has been the trend. Large churches with mega-budgets to match their mega-buildings could begin to make cuts or even fold because of spending restraints.

I am currently on the U.S. Center for World Mission campus in Pasadena however, and one of the greatest questions we are asking here is how will a recession/depression affect mission giving in America? Although other nations (South Korea, for example) are sending out more missionaries by the year, we are still the largest sending nation for the time. The great appeal in short-term mission ministry already (in my opinion) seems to have brought spotlight off of career missionaries and faith-based ngo's, will some have to come home or defer heading into mission because the church base loses its golden-age generosity?

I expect the answer to be yes and no. But, as the mission of the Church is mission and the mission of mission is the Church, I do hope that in having to choose between building programs or extra staff positions requiring salaries that could be filled by volunteers would be considered the first to go, rather than mission work, here and abroad.

Anonymous said...

One cannot help but wonder as it says, "in the way you judge you will be judged" if God, in an indirect way, is just dealing with the church as it deals with others who do not do as they deem "right" by boycotting them and taking away their support.

Seems that the support of religious activity is now being taken away/curtailed and we all know that there is much "wrong" within the ranks.

One has to wonder if they look at the facts as they are laid on the table and compare them against the word of God.

While I could be wrong, my statement not well-accepted and will most likely be deleted, it does not change the fact that the church is already feeling the impact as stated above.

If folks don't have money to tithe, or all salaries are reduced across the board by 50% or more, seems to me that life will be much different on all sides for clergy and non alike.

There is one promise in Ps. 31.24, The Lord guards the loyal, and more than requites him who acts arrogantly.

Personally, when I face these types of situations, I look within first and evaluate my life against the Text! Might be a good place to begin rather than looking at where budgets will be cut or what impacts may be felt and where!

I've just been through this personally with some zealots who decided until I did as they demanded, and not as God demanded, that I would lose everything. The above text is applicable to my situation as well!

It is imperative, if you expect to survive, that you deal well with others because it says, everyone's day will come and if you don't have a friend in God, you don't have a friend!

shawnbarr said...

Elizabeth, You commented...

"...but now especially is a time when it is never appropriate to question recipients with a hazing of hoops to jump through."

I agree we should be generous and not make people jump through unnecessary hoops.

But I disagree that some form of screening is wrong. We don't have unlimited resources and managing our benevolence program requires some paperwork and interviews. We want to make sure people have applied for other assistance they are eligible for. We also want to screen for the occassional abuser of the system - who does exist, although we hate to admit it. (we've seen plenty - one who took us for $4500 and was arrested for similar scams at other churches and non-profits).

So yes, be generous and streamlined in how we help people; but also wise and good stewards.

John Mark said...

Here are a few random comments from a Boomer Pastor, late 50's. I am not ready for retirement, and because of restructuring that happened when I finally answered the call to full time, I will get no pension from my church. I am very nervous about my 403b account, obviously, and was never under the illusion that I would be able to retire at 65, let alone 62. I have people in my church who retired at 55 or so, I confess I envy them at times...or my Baptist relatives whose retirement packages make ours look pretty anemic. That is another subject..
A real depression might do the nation good, but I wonder. I don't think our entitlement oriented, materialistic society will handle deprivation very well. I could see riots in the 'hood and suicide in the 'burbs when the tap is shut off. We are spoiled, and you know how spoiled kids act when they must do without anything.
I don't know who made the first comment about those who come to the church for help, but when I first became a pastor I had a steady stream of "applicants" for money, a nights lodging, food, etc. I eventually wised up and now require people to fill out paperwork which we got from the Salvation Army. It has cut the traffic down as much as 90%.
As I have said before, you don't even have to be unemployed to get housing, health care and a grocery card in this country, so the truly destitute are usually that way because of addictions or mental illness, or being the children of such. There are exceptions, of course, but this is the rule in my opinion.

::athada:: said...


If the poor are blessed, as we supposed one afternoon over coffee, maybe a downturn will help with some international UNdevelopment in our neck of the woods =)

Pastor James said...

I'd like to know where my generation's voice is concerning all of our economic turmoil? I'm 29 year's old. Tonight, during the presidential debate I heard no questions from anyone under 30. Are we ignoring the problems our nation is facing? Are we not going to be the generation that is faced with fixing and paying for the problems our nation is facing right now? Could the real reason our generation seems to have no voice is because our generation is absent from our churches? Sadly, I believe our generation pays the least amount of tithe. Maybe that's why we don't have a voice. It's been said in our churches; and I have heard this several times in more than one church. Who cares about the teens and young adults. They don't pay the bills. Keep up this mentality and their won't be any bills. There won't be any bills because all of our churches will be closed. At my current church we have a nice fellowship hall for the 55 and older. We have a very out of date sanctuary for the 55 and older. Look around. There is no space for the teens and young adults except a small storage room in the back of the church cluttered with boxes and file cabinets. Just tonight we had a meeting and the trustees were reluctant to give a major part of our church basement to the young people. I asked, 'What if older people came to our church and all the young people said, "Sorry, we don't have a place for you to meet. Meet in the back room." How long would our 50 somethings attend the church? Not long. I think it's time my generation stood up and demanded our spot in the church. If this means we need to start paying tithe then we need to start paying tithe. Isn't that a Biblical mandate anyway. I'd just like to hear more of my generations opinions, belief's, and fears in discussion like these and in our church meetings. Tonight, at our meeting and in the presidential debate, there was no young adult voice present. I can't help but wonder why??? The 50's and 60's generation had the hippies. Where is our group? Where is our voice?

End of Sermon!!

Ryan Schmitz said...

Enjoyed your thoughts, here is what I've been thinking:

1. Maybe there could be some resurgence of bi-vocational staff members, shared staff members, or even a greater emphasis on multi-congregational (multi-ethnic) church buildings.

2. During tough times, churches need to do more ministry not less. Its when the church fails to act, we end up with Bigger Government.

3. I would hope that some that don't tithe could be taught to do so through the visible demonstations of need.

4. Hopefully there will be a new focus on the family.

5. Churches should be prepared to loose their tax exempt status.

Ken said...


perhaps i'm an idealist, but i really believe churches MAY return to the basics - prayer, fasting, word, and worship.

having less may initially lead to frustration and even boredom, but (and again, i'm an idealist) boredom MAY lead to reflection, contemplation, and eventually a more contemplative, Spirit-filled life.

of course, now is a great time to teach on such things. i don't believe we need to cram this teaching down people's throats, and i think the call to a less materialistic life can actually be seasoned with kindness and compassion, but revelation 3 seems fitting:

You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.

additionally, i also believe the core value of community (as in fellowship) will see an even greater resurgence. as an example, our church's small group ministry is based on various towns and locations around our region - people meet in homes close to their own home for food, prayer, and Bible study twice a month.

this will be good for our groups in more ways than one. first, people won't be asked to drive 20-30-40 minutes to the church when they can drive 5 minutes or less to gather in homes. and second, people will enjoy a level of interaction typically not accessed during our sunday morning services. so they'll save gas money and enjoy a communal, cost-effective meal, all while deepening and strengthening their relationships in the Body.

like the others, i believe there will be cuts in building programs and staff payrolls. and as a pastor in the wesleyan church i'm a bit biased, but here are my my thoughts nontheless: several pastors i know are mildly to severely underpaid, so i hope the somewhat harsh feelings of 'anonymous' are the exception rather than the norm.

still, i realize we may be asked to sacrifice through pay delays, pay cuts, or even bi-vocational employment - but the majority of pastors i know DON'T live high on the hog and would do everything they could to help their local church in tough times. in fact, our church is currently living offering to offering, and we've found it causing us to...

:: pray more, while also rethinking how we pray

:: deepen creativity, and expand our call to creative thought

:: spend less (there's a 'duh', but you really shouldn't spend money just because you set a budget for it)

:: re-examine ministry priorities and strategies

:: talk about tithing (slightly counter-intuitive, but since most people didn't tithe BEFORE the tanked economy, it's necessary to help people understand that even tithing on LESS could end up being more than what they gave when they didn't tithe)

:: renegotiate staff salaries, and re-examine staffing priorities

great post, keith. i think we've got a long-term change before us, and i applaud your call to think through the potential long-term effects and how we'll deal with this.

i've posted too much, but i wanted to add: i agree with mark schnell - it might be a good thing for the church to move toward a simpler, more 'unplugged' format. after all, thousands of churches around the world have little to nothing economically, yet God is working mightily in their midst. perhaps some shrinkage is just what the north american church needs to return to the basics of prayer, fasting, word, and worship.