Churches “reeling” from financial shortfalls

While there’s good news this week that the chance of a double dip recession seems to be decreasing, the news isn’t doing much to soften the worry that many congregations are feeling as they emerge from this summer and start planning their fall stewardship and pledge drives.

According to a New York Times article congregations across the spectrum of American religious life are feeling a financial winter like never before. The decline in giving is being seen in large institutional congregations and smaller storefront ones. And there’s not much evidence that things are getting better anytime soon.

“Rabbi Gerald L. Zelizer, who has led Congregation Neve Shalom in Metuchen, N.J., since 1970, described a phenomenon of financial extremes. On one hand, more than 50 families out of a total of 580 in his congregation this year asked for their annual dues to be reduced. On the other hand, several large donors in the congregation, knowing of its budgetary struggle, increased their contributions to the annual fund, which rose to $67,000 from $53,000 over the past year.

Still, with what Rabbi Zelizer calls the ‘graying’ of Conservative Jewish congregations, and a ‘growing disinterest in organized religion,’ a few philanthropic angels cannot provide a long-term solution.

‘This is a different dip than we’ve ever had before,’ he said. ‘You have to work harder to overcome this. The mountain is steeper.’”

Read the full article here.

(Editor note: Congregational finances are probably going through the same systemic reseting that newspapers are going through as existing business models no longer work given shifts in religious affiliation, declines in expendable income and graying congregations across the board. It’s going to be a while before a new broadly applicable to support local ministers and ministry emerges.)

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