At St. Stephen Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., the 14,000-member congregation billed itself as a "seven-day-a-week" hub of activity, with choir practices, ministry meetings or small groups scheduled every night.
Then Pastor Kevin Cosby noticed a drop-off — people simply couldn't afford the gas to drive to several activities on several different evenings.
So Cosby shuffled the schedule to combine all activities on Wednesday night to give parishioners a "one-stop-shop for your soul." The church also bought a third 14-passenger bus to shuttle people to and from church.
"We thought it would be a better practice of stewardship," Cosby said. "The good use and stewardship of resources is how we demonstrate our love for God."
Members with long commutes say they already feel the benefit of the Wednesday shift.
"I think it's great. Tonight I am going to attend three different auxiliaries all in one night," said Cornelius Pumphrey, an 11-year member who lives 25 miles away. "Gas here is $4. … I will be able to save a considerable amount."
Added Brenda Dudley, a member for 21 years, "Budget-wise, it really helps to have everything under one roof at one time."
With rising food and gas prices, Americans are grappling for economic stability. Religious institutions, in turn, are getting creative in trying to soften the blow of rising prices on parishioners' pocketbooks.
Some churches have responded with weekly gas card raffles and subsidized gas outreaches to the community. For others, like St. Stephen, the answer lies in major changes of service offerings.
In Eastlake, Ohio, the Worldwide Great Commission Fellowship church started raffling one $25 gas card and one $20 grocery card during Sunday services for all attendees last month. ...1