"All of us should be on a journey of faith, and we should be ever increasing our commitment to resources for God's kingdom. It's a good thing to continue to strive to grow and to reach more people. But the qualification comes in that there are many regions of the country where the economic outlook is going to continue to be difficult and a challenge. So for those parts of the country where unemployment is high, foreclosures are high, and financial stress on small businesses continues to be high, I would say increase your budget, but do so with full awareness of the challenges and pain that may exist in your congregation, and certainly do so without incurring debt."

Chuck Bentley, CEO, Crown Financial Ministries

"Yes, but modestly. Next year is the third year of a presidential cycle. The head of the Federal Reserve Board is appointed by the president; he wants to be accommodating because there's an election coming up and everyone votes their wallets in this country. The net result is that there has not been a decline in the U.S. stock market in the third year of a presidency since the Great Depression."

Gary Moore, founder, The Financial Seminary

"What we see is cautious optimism on the part of our church members. Donations seem to be trending upwards somewhat. Some of them are still down five to 10 percent compared to a year ago, but there is increasing optimism on the part of churches as we see some positive trends in the giving."

Dan Busby, president, Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability

"I don't know whether churches should or shouldn't increase their budgets. We do know from the research that very few churches are intentionally planning for recalibrating their ministry and their structure to meet the demands of a new economy. Churches ought to be more intentional about that. They're not taking a proactive stance about being nimble; they're trying to cut costs, rather than fundamentally restructuring for … what is likely to be a period of really lean years."

David Kinnaman, president, Barna Group

"Churches should not look to economic indicators to determine whether or not to increase their budgets. Church leaders should look to God to determine what he is calling them to do, and then generously lead the way offering their resources to accomplish God's purposes and invite the congregants to follow. If the vision for the year requires more resources then the previous year's budget, then yes, the church should increase it. If a church does not have a clearsense of what God is calling them to do, the leaders should seek him in prayer, and in so doing, probably trim the budget in the season of waiting on him."

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Gary Hoag, Generosity Monk

"The years of prosperity concealed underlying internal issues that are the real reason giving is down at some churches. During the time the economy was good and offerings were increasing, statistics say the offerings were not increasing on a per-giver basis. … They were growing their operating budgets by growing numbers of people. When the lean resource environment sets in, scarcity begins to clarify everything. For some of these churches, it clarifies that they haven't been healthy for a while, and the abundance of money was just covering it up."

Jim Sheppard, CEO, Generis

"What we have not seen in the economy is a rapid rebound in the wages or earnings of Americans. Until we start to see those go up, most churches that have a static attendance are not going to see much of a rise in giving because those things are related; the biblical principal of tithe is based on earnings. When we see in the U.S. that earnings continue to be slow to increase, churches should be pretty modest in total in their budgeting for the new year. But of course as they take into account local context, that might lead to a lower or higher budget for next year."

Scott McConnell, associate director, LifeWay Research

"Some pastors—and I have talked with many—are using the poor economy as an excuse for poor leadership in the area of stewardship and giving. 'Our giving is way down at our church. What are you going to do? It's a tough economy.' The truth is, pastor, you're not teaching, modeling or celebrating generosity and stewardship, so you're not experiencing it in your church. It's a very convenient excuse for poor leadership. When Bill Clinton was running for re-election, his campaign manager decided here's our story: 'It's the economy, stupid.' He turned every conversation back to the economy. I want to say to some pastors, with all due respect, it's not the economy, pastor. It's something else."

Chris Willard, Leadership Community Director, Leadership Network

"Our church will not. In October 2008 there was a tsunami that hit Wall Street, and almost overnight there was crisis. That did not happen to churches. Churches do not experience tsunamis, but they are experiencing rising floodwaters of financial challenges. It isn't like bam, they all got slammed; it's like people aren't giving as much. Some of our people are out of work. There's not any one cataclysmic event, but rising floodwaters of economic difficulties that are more and more affecting churches."

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Brian Kluth, founder, Maximum Generosity

Related Elsewhere:

Previous articles in Christianity Today on the economic recession include:

It Takes More Than a Recession to End Consumption | Though it's no longer conspicuous, 'feel-good' buying lives on in the U.S. (February 12, 2009)
Music in Recession | Can the Christian music industry survive the economic storm? (June 2, 2009)
Recession and Religiosity Redux | Do evangelical churches see more members during a recession? (January 2, 2009)

Previous topics for discussion included a Protestant-less Supreme Court, Mother's Day worship, incorporating churches, whether evangelicals are doing a good job at racial integration, whether Christians should leave the American Medical Association, the most significant change in Christianity over the past decade, whether the Supreme Court should rule that memorial crosses are secular, multisite campuses vs. church plants, and whether Christians should fast during Ramadan with Muslims.

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