The recession hits churches

May 26, 2009
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Churches, which tend to ride out recessions better than many other institutions, are struggling to finish building projects, reporter Kathleen McLaughlin writes in this weekendâ??s IBJ.

The recession and stock market downturn have forced parishioners to scale back commitments, resulting in delays or smaller projects.

St. Paulâ??s Episcopal Church on North Meridian Street has laid off staff and cut giving to other ministries as its endowment shrank.

Grace Community Church in Carmel plans to take on a small amount of debt to finish a $28 million construction program. Some places wouldnâ??t bat an eye at a small loan, but Grace Community is accustomed to building with cash.

If youâ??re part of a faith community, have you reduced your donations? If so, why?

And how do you feel about some of the larger construction projects? Kathleenâ??s story notes that people are gravitating to larger churches, which require bigger buildings. Have the merits of smaller congregations been lost as church membership consolidates?
  • The struggle with churches isn't their size or that they are building Rather, it is with how they prioritize their programs. Most churches are highly insulated and only build programs or facilities that benefit people that are on the inside. We have hundreds of millions of dollars of church building programs going on at any point in time in this community yet we still have people that are sleeping in their cars or struggling to find affordable housing or shelter if needed. Maybe we should stop building new church buildings and share those that we have. Then we can take the dollars that are available for buildings and build for and give to those who are in need...the church would be back to changing the world once again!!
  • We've actually increased our giving during this time as an outward sign of our faith, how blessed we truly are to live in this city/country, and would like to encourage others to do the same! Who do we put our faith in: the Creator of the Universe? Or the Dow and our retirement funds, Obama, Congress?

    Joe S. is right on in that more church dollars should go to the poor, hungry, without shelter, without clothes, etc instead of bigger buildings. Well said.
  • I am on the board of trustees for a church on the north side of town. Our number of contributors has not changed, but we have seen contributions decrease slightly.

    Several of our lump sum contributors have advised us that they are going to be contributing over time this year.
  • Seriously? This is not new news. When your average contributor loses their cash flow or afraid of their cash flow, they will be less willing to donate or contribute to various places. Churches apparently are not immune to the recession.
  • Brilliant commentary on the obvious.......

    Some churches have gotten as greedy as corporate America. Operating like corporate boards. Were they doing Christ's work? In many cases, me thinks probably not.

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  1. to mention the rest of Molly's experience- she served as Communications Director for the Indianapolis Department of Public Works and also did communications for the state. She's incredibly qualified for this role and has a real love for Indianapolis and Indiana. Best of luck to her!

  2. Shall we not demand the same scrutiny for law schools, med schools, heaven forbid, business schools, etc.? How many law school grads are servers? How many business start ups fail and how many business grads get low paying jobs because there are so few high paying positions available? Why does our legislature continue to demean public schools and give taxpayer dollars to charters and private schools, ($171 million last year), rather than investing in our community schools? We are on a course of disaster regarding our public school attitudes unless we change our thinking in a short time.

  3. I agree with the other reader's comment about the chunky tomato soup. I found myself wanting a breadstick to dip into it. It tasted more like a marinara sauce; I couldn't eat it as a soup. In general, I liked the place... but doubt that I'll frequent it once the novelty wears off.

  4. The Indiana toll road used to have some of the cleanest bathrooms you could find on the road. After the lease they went downhill quickly. While not the grossest you'll see, they hover a bit below average. Am not sure if this is indicative of the entire deal or merely a portion of it. But the goals of anyone taking over the lease will always be at odds. The fewer repairs they make, the more money they earn since they have a virtual monopoly on travel from Cleveland to Chicago. So they only comply to satisfy the rules. It's hard to hand public works over to private enterprise. The incentives are misaligned. In true competition, you'd have multiple roads, each build by different companies motivated to make theirs more attractive. Working to attract customers is very different than working to maximize profit on people who have no choice but to choose your road. Of course, we all know two roads would be even more ridiculous.

  5. The State is in a perfect position. The consortium overpaid for leasing the toll road. Good for the State. The money they paid is being used across the State to upgrade roads and bridges and employ people at at time most of the country is scrambling to fund basic repairs. Good for the State. Indiana taxpayers are no longer subsidizing the toll roads to the tune of millions a year as we had for the last 20 years because the legislature did not have the guts to raise tolls. Good for the State. If the consortium fails, they either find another operator, acceptable to the State, to buy them out or the road gets turned back over to the State and we keep the Billions. Good for the State. Pat Bauer is no longer the Majority or Minority Leader of the House. Good for the State. Anyway you look at this, the State received billions of dollars for an assett the taxpayers were subsidizing, the State does not have to pay to maintain the road for 70 years. I am having trouble seeing the downside.