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Troubled economy has hurt churches, slight majority of Protestant pastors say

Just more than half of Protestant pastors in the United States believe current economy is having a negative impact on their churches, a new survey from Lifeway Research found.

By contrast, just 5 percent thought the economy was “somewhat positively” affecting their church and 2 percent said it was “very positively” impacting their church. Forty percent of respondents said the economy had no impact on their church. The share of respondents who believed the economy was somewhat negatively impacting their church increased from 34 percent in 2021 to 45 percent in 2022 but remains below what was reported from 2007 to 2014, when at least half of the pastors surveyed had a negative view of the economy’s impact on their churches.

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“The souring of pastor attitudes toward the economy is more about rising expenses than declining income,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research. “Declining year-over-year giving is a factor for almost a quarter of churches, but this is a similar rate to what churches have averaged for over a decade.”

The survey identified pastors from the Northeast as the most likely to select “very or somewhat negatively” when asked about the impact of the economy on their church. Pastors of congregations with fewer than 50 people were more likely than leaders of larger churches to describe the impact of the economy as “very or somewhat” negative.

Fifty-eight percent of pastors affiliated with the Church of Christ selected “very or somewhat negatively,” followed by 57 percent of Presbyterian/Reformed pastors, 56 percent of Methodist pastors, 54 percent of Baptist pastors and 39 percent of Pentecostal pastors. Forty-one percent of Methodist pastors said they received about the level of donations they expected, as did 28 percent of Baptist pastors, 27 percent of Lutheran pastors and 23 percent of Pentecostals.

Thirty-five percent of male pastors experienced an increase in donations at their churches over the past year compared to 22 percent of female pastors. Nearly twice as many African American pastors (36 percent) saw a decrease in donations over the past year than white pastors (22 percent). Additionally, 29 percent of Methodist pastors witnessed a decline in donations, along with 17 percent of Lutheran pastors.

–Alan Goforth | Metro Voice News

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