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Church Leadership

3 Positive Effects of Recession on the Church

3-positive-of-recession

Nearly every day I encounter someone who tells me their churches budget was cut, people at their church are about to lose their jobs, or otherwise their church is encountering hard financial times.

That’s not purely a bad thing. Here are three positive things that a lack of money bring to a church.

1. A gut check for the staff. If you’ve worked in a church you know that there are people who are on staff because they are absolutely convinced God wants them there and there are people who are there because its a job. When budgets get slashed, programs get cut, and necessary and unnecessary stuff gets trimmed to cut costs… each staff member has to examine herself and ask, “Why am I here? Do I really want to be here?” Some will double down their efforts and some will check out. Both are positive for the church going forward.

2. A gut church for the parishoners. Along the same lines the people who attend the church have to face the same choice. When their beloved program is dismantled because of a lack of funding they have to ask themselves, “Am I here for that program, or am I here because this is where God wants me?” When they see a staff member lose benefits or their job or even their house, they re-examine their financial priorites automatically. “Am I being faithful to God with my money? Am I being a good steward of what I earn?” This is a positive outcome!

3. A gut check for the dreamers. I can’t help but think of the mid-2000’s boom in church growth. With the last coughs of the Field of Dreams model [If you build it, they will come… and give!] of church growth, congregations built massive additions, added satellite campuses, and even reached out to buy up struggling churches. For the most part this was done during good times and using credit. Now those churches see double digit decreases in giving and are stuck in a catch-22 scenario. Admit they were wrong to buy on credit and sell property or trim programs and staff to try to ride out the dip. This is a positive outcome for the church, even if it means they go bankrupt. The healthy and faithful congregations will make it. The ones who depended on their own talents will fail.

A bonus positive: A side effect of the extended recession is that I am seeing a massive wave of volunteerism in the church. As churches trim their budgets and people in the pews realize that they need to step up, the church as a whole is seeing an increase in volunteers in key church leadership positions.

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family

Buyers market vs. Sellers market

Yesterday was a bit of a shock to the system. It’s not until you leave the Detroit area that you see just how different it is from SoCal. In many ways, the area seems oblivious to the deep recession (I’d call it borderline depression. If not economically, definitely on the psyche of the area.) 

Walking through store is funny. While I’m certain that there are many people on the bottom of the socio-economic ladder, the stores don’t seem to notice. Next time you’re in Target on 26 Mile notice the posture of shoppers. It’ll indicate the confidence level in spending money.

Clearly the housing market is polar opposite. You wouldn’t believe the sales pitch this lady tried to give us on an apartment last night. Not only was the apartment sub-par (worn out, horrible location for a family) when we were done she just said, “We’ll wave the application fee if you give me $100 to hold the place. But we can’t get you in until August 25th.” That’s the hook for spending $2000/month in San Diego? We weren’t impressed.

The general pitch I’ve gotten from renting a house (as opposed to renting an apartment in a complex) is “this house would sell for $500,000 so we don’t think what we’re charing for rent is a lot. Never mind the fact that the person has owned the property for years and probably bought it for under $200,000. For us… this is like Michigan pre-bubble when there is a massive difference between what a place is worth and what the market will sustain. 

We know this is how it is here. We’re not in denial. And I’ll even admit that it’s a little refreshing. It’s fun to not hear every newscast or front page story be about the economy or gas prices. In some respects I understand the “Nation of Whiners” comment. I think most of what we’re feeling is that millions of people have to bite the bullet and start paying down their personal debts. Having less personal debt automatically makes you a more aggressive shopper. 

More housing stuff later today. We’re pretty excited about the next one we’re looking at.