Its been interesting to hear in my tribal circles that giving to congregations and the denomination has gone down ever since we allowed the option for congregations to call gay and lesbian pastors in partnerships. Considering that only 500-600 congregations left out of 11,000, it doesn’t hold much water in my mind. What is having an effect is the economy, specifically on two groups – overextended new congregations and undersized congregations that can’t afford staffing or utilities.
If you built a new building or added on since 2008, you and your leadership have been sweating bullets and been very nice to new members. As incomes dropped and jobs were lost, church income dropped to the point where staff was/is cut to pay mortgages on buildings that aren’t filling up or paying for themselves. Likewise, rural American is a patchwork of congregations worshipping 25-100, sitting at crossroads or in cornfields, and filled with elderly members. They can’t afford pastors but at least the building was paid off. Now they can’t afford part time or the utilities/upkeep on 100+ year old buildings. So they close and try and sell the property.
Which does raise the question – who want to buy a used church? Occasionally an old brick building might become a home or restaurant but 95% of the time? They sit there and decay, a new icon for religious life in the 21st Century, and the end of the boomer dream of the megachurch.