Drastic Times, Not Drastic Measures

Ideas for responding to a decline in church offerings.

1. Use scarcity to find clarity.

The majority of congregations felt a financial pinch in 2009, and the trend is likely to continue this year. LifeWay Research and a YourChurch.net poll both reported in January that nearly half of the respondents said their churches had been hurt by the economy.

That means church leaders will need to "make every penny shine and every dollar crisp. Every expense has got to be justified," says John Throop, the priest-in-charge for Trinity Episcopal Church, a 300-member congregation in Portsmouth, Virginia. For Throop, the clarity comes when a church uses a "We will … so that …" approach. Filling in the blanks forces leaders to answer the question of where God is taking them.

This may include cutting staff or ministries. "When you're discerning and selective, hard conversations come," says Joy Skjegstad, a Minneapolis-based consultant. But the payoff comes in the long term. "Churches can't be everything to everybody, and they need to realize their ...

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