Though religious congregations are slowly recovering from the recession, many groups are still feeling the pain, according to a new study.
The study by the Hartford Institute for Religion Research, in Hartford, Conn., combined the results of 26 polls taken to show the effects of the downturn and also analyzed data from more than 11,000 congregations.
It found that more than 40 percent of these congregations reported that their finances had stabilized in 2010.
In addition, about 10 percent reported increases in revenue last year and 22 percent said that they had seen a drop in revenue during the recession but have since recovered.
The bad economy, however, was difficult for religious congregations.
Some 80 percent of congregations said that their finances had been hurt by the downturn in 2008, and 57 percent said that they lost money in 2010.
Since the recession started, nearly a quarter of congregations said they had to reduce programs and services to the needy, 27 percent delayed capital campaigns and building projects, and 9 percent laid off staff members.
And this came at a time when congregations of all kinds reported increased demand for help. Nearly half of all congregations reported a rise in the need for cash assistance among their congregants, 22 percent reported an increase in requests for emergency housing, and 24 percent said they received more requests for pastoral assistance.
Evangelical churches were hit harder than old-line Protestant churches because they are often located in less affluent areas, according to the report.
Though most of the data collected came from Protestant Christian denominations, the report also includes some information from Muslim and Jewish congregations. About 65 percent of Muslim congregations surveyed said that their income had declined (though the report warns that it may not have enough data to warrant its finding statistically significant). Some 83 percent of Conservative Jewish and 78 percent of Reform Jewish congregations surveyed said that they had lost money as the economy soured.
Let us know how your congregation fared during the downturn—and what strategies have worked best to improve finances and keep up with demands for services.