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Poll: Recession Catches Up
to U.S. Churches

BY BROOKLYN LOWERY                                                                                         ©2010 Baptist Press

The National Bureau of Economic Research declared in September that the recession that began in December 2007 ended in June 2009.

According to a new LifeWay Research study, pastors of Protestant churches might disagree: Data gathered Oct. 7-14 shows that 2010 is on course to be the third straight year with an increased number of churches receiving lower offerings than the prior year. Thirty-four percent of churches report receiving less offering this year than the previous year, compared to 23 percent in 2009 and 19 percent in 2008.

Additionally, LifeWay Research reported that 79 percent of pastors say the economy is impacting their church negatively, reflecting media reports that overall offering dollars reportedly have declined for the first time.

"It's hard to explain in financial terms how churches have done as well as they have the last three years," said Scott McConnell, director of LifeWay Research. "Churches actually saw average offerings rise 3 percent in 2009, but the recession -- though officially over mid last year -- has finally taken its toll on churches in 2010."

In the October telephone survey, churches reported average 2010 offerings of 3 percent less than their 2009 offerings, though the median amount hasn't changed.

-- 42 percent of churches report offerings that are the same as those of 2009.
-- 21 percent report offerings that are at least 10 percent below last year's giving.
-- 19 percent of churches report that the 2010 offering is at least 1 percent above what it was in 2009. The smallest churches, those with less than 49 people in average worship attendance, are least likely to have experienced growth in offerings over 2009. 
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