Churches find their flocks are not recession-proof

The San Diego Union Tribune took a look at how congregations in San Diego country are dealing with the consequences of the current economy. With falling home prices, a credit crunch, skyrocketing fuel costs and stagflation, congregations must deal with shrinking budgets while helping their members deal with hard times.

Rancho Bernardo Community Presbyterian Church has cut its budget, laid off a half-dozen staff members and is being bombarded with requests for prayers by members faced with losing homes and jobs.

North Coast Church in Vista, one of the county’s largest evangelical congregations with multiple venues, began holding workshops on how to write résumés and do job interviews after members began mentioning that they were facing downsizing or unemployment.

And at St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral near Balboa Park, the congregation is meeting in small groups to study a book about living more simply. Later this year, the church will launch a program on how to budget.

God may be recession-proof, but his flock is another story.

Throughout San Diego County, many religious communities find themselves tightening their own fiscal belts as well as ministering to members squeezed by rising costs, a diminished labor market and escalating home foreclosures.

The Episcopal Cathedral noticed what was happening and decided to take a direct approach:

“We really made an effort to say, ‘Look, folks, just let us know if you need to reduce your pledges,’ ” said Chris Harris, the cathedral’s canon for congregation development.

Others were invited to give more, if they could. It seems to be working. “I think we’ve righted our ship pretty much,” Harris said.

The cathedral also launched a two-part education program. The first phase, going on now, involves having the congregation meet in small groups at members’ homes to study a book about living more spiritually and simply. The next phase will be a nuts-and-bolts budgeting program to teach people how to live within their means.

At a small group session Tuesday night, five cathedral members gathered at a Hillcrest condominium to talk about how their net worth should not equal their self-worth.

Read the rest here.

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