Thursday, 29 January 2009


"We're facing what our members are facing in their companies and at work," said the Rev. David Loveless, pastor of Discovery Church in Orlando. Its four campuses serve about 4,000 members."We've probably cut $700,000 out of the budget this year," Loveless said.

Although his church has not missed any loan payments, it had to lay off about a dozen of its 75 paid staffers and recently instituted across-the-board pay cuts of 10 percent.

Loveless said some cuts could be reinstated if the economy improves, but he pledged to be the last person to return to his previous salary.Meanwhile, he has encouraged parishioners to keep giving in practical ways, such as gift cards from grocery and hardware stores, so they can continue to help those both inside and outside the church.

"One of the smartest things we can do is to give [despite] our need," Loveless said. "We're just trying to act contrarian to show we have faith in the future and demonstrate we believe God will take care of us."Although donations are down, Loveless and others have reported strong attendance as the economy spirals."Attendance is not the problem," said the Rev. Randolph Bracy Jr., pastor of New Covenant Baptist Church of Orlando. "That's the irony."The economy's impact on church finances mirrors a national trend. Many churches are facing the prospect of "needing a bailout," according to a year-end report by Cargill Associates Inc., a Christian fundraising development firm in Fort Worth, Texas.

Working closely with Catholic and Protestant churches -- both mainline and Evangelical -- across the United States in 2008, the firm monitored the financial effect of the economy on church giving."There's no question churches are feeling the pinch on a national level," said Pat Graham, president of Cargill Associates.Church members in needFor the first time in its 16-year history, New Covenant has not met its budget goal. Diminished collections caused the church to bring in $500,000 less than anticipated in 2008."We're in dire straits right now," said Bracy, pastor of the 2,000-member church. "I'm 64, and I've never seen anything like it."As a result, Bracy and other church leaders ordered several budget cuts, staff layoffs and a delay in expansion plans.The church's emergency and charitable funds have been focused more than ever on its own struggling members.

The Rev. Jon Dunwell said his Westwood Church in Orlando faces similar challenges.As lean times hit, Westwood started a directory for those in need. That way other congregation members could offer aid, from job leads to simply inviting folks to dinner so that cash-strapped parishioners wouldn't feel isolated.Some Westwood members also have offered to drive families to services, allowing out-of-work churchgoers to save on gas.