Watching the economy while tending the flock

On November 21, I posted If gas hits $4/gal, what will your church do? Comments indicated some thought it was not going to be a problem, others were keeping a close eye on economic developments. This week 5 economic items of interest all converged:

  1. Low consumer confidence. According to government economists, if consumers spend less, then fewer goods are purchased, fewer manufactured, more jobs lost, and unemployment rises. Consumer confidence hit a 5-year low this reporting period.
  2. Rising gas prices. Oil routinely closes above $100/barrel now. $4 per gallon gas is predicted for this spring. Consumers will likely conserve by making fewer trips, and church might be one of the places less traveled to.
  3. The subprime mortgage crisis. Note that banks, mortgage holders, and investment banks are writing down billions of dollars in bad loans. Most economists believe this is far from over, with lots of foreclosures, tight credit, and more banks in trouble.
  4. Weak dollar. I don’t understand a lot about economics, but I get this one from my international travels. When you enter a foreign country, you exchange your good ole US dollars for local currency. A weaker dollar “buys” less foreign currency, therefore you have less money to spend. Other implications also exist, particularly in our national debt, but those aren’t good either.
  5. Recession talk. It’s out there — the R-word. Recession is being talked about for all the reasons I mention above, and then some.

What does this mean for churches? Churches that practice good stewardship will have fewer problems. Churches that have borrowed to fund building expansion or other projects might face some difficulty. I believe we are in a period of economic uncertainty, and churches would be wise to watch the economic indicators all around them.

Our church is in an area that is undergoing tremendous economic change, and it does affect churches here. Lost jobs, lost wages translate into fewer contributions, plus families move to take jobs in other communities. So, churches can lose not just money, but members, too. What do you see happening in your community? Are your members discussing economics? Are companies in your area hiring or laying off? What steps is your church taking, if any, to weather an economic slowdown?

4 thoughts on “Watching the economy while tending the flock”

  1. You know, it’s funny. (funny in that interesting kind of way) As much as I read about and consider the economy — not like I’m some kind of economist, just a guy who works to give God what’s his and use the rest to feed and clothe the family–I have never given any thought to the impact on the church. Where I worship, we are frequently told “give joyfully or keep your money” and I believe most do. We have no debt because we meet in a school where we pay a nominal rent. When God provides a building or property we will be ready to pay for it. NO DEBT. All of our sound equipment and supplies are stored in a trailer which is stored in a storage barn where we pay a nominal rent. Every quarter more than 10% of what is collected goes to various ministries or missionaries that we sponsor. The rest is saved for the day that God shows us a building or property. Could we “do more” if we had a building. Maybe, but this is where God has us now. It works. Seriously, why do we have to build those ginormous, gargantuan, behomoth church buildings that sit empty for days on end? I just don’t get it.

  2. I like what you guys are doing and agree with your approach. Churches do not need to go into debt to have a meeting space, and I applaud your work there. I started a church in NC and we met at the Marriott on Sundays, and in homes during the week. We only bought property and built later as God opened the doors. Thanks for your comments. — Chuck

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