The Episcopal Cafe points to a New York Times article that highlights the financial concerns of churches and other religious organizations. The article highlights congregations as diverse as a Conservative Jewish synagogue in New Jersey, an African-American church in NY and a hispanic congregation in Brooklyn, and mentions financial problems at churches like the National Cathedral in DC and the Crystal Cathedral.
Although it doesn’t provide much detail or analysis, the article highlights other factors besides the recession that affect giving. For example, baby boomers give about 10% less than the parents did.
Nick Knisely comments at the Cafe that churches are experiencing the same sort of challenge that newspapers have been going through. Old “business models” are no longer applicable given changes in the way people relate to religious institutions and changing demographics.
Sobering thoughts as we begin our stewardship campaign.
The NYT article is very frustrating because it provides so little analysis of the information that was gathered. The most salient point seems to be that declining contributions reflect people’s reduced involvement as fewer young people participate actively in religious institutions.
It was always the case that many members gave less to the church than they spent on their country club bills. Even today, the problem is not really a lack of means (just look around the parking lots) but of will. Too many people in our society look on the church not as an integral part of their cultural and spiritual lives but as a social utility that is only needed on a few occasions, for baptisms, marriages and funerals. Contrast that with the amount people are willing to sacrifice just to sit in a stadium and watch as college or professional football teams go at each other for a few hours each weekend in the fall. So a more challenging question might be, why are so many people more involved in the fate of an athletic team than in their own spiritual well being? Are they so lacking in a sense of personal identity that the vicarious thrill of victory can displace the joy of the Kingdom?
The article might also have pointed to the extraordinary amount of time that young people invest in internet games, web surfing, and other purely private and unproductive activities that actively destroy community rather than building it up.