DALLAS (BP) — In the devastated Cornerstone Baptist Church community of South Dallas, inflation has led some members to choose between keeping gas in their tanks or driving to church.
“Donations are down as people now have to decide whether to donate or get gas to get to church,” Cornerstone senior pastor Chris Simmons said. “It doesn’t just impact donations. It also impacts footfall as people don’t have the money for gas and they try to ration gas. Some people went back online, for no other reason than the gas.
“There is a tendency for others who might be in a higher income bracket to have a little wiggle room when it comes to inflation, but I think it impacted even those people because it lasted much longer than expected and inflation rates are so much higher than they would have budgeted.
In the more affluent town of Riverside, Calif., the national inflation rate of 8.5% challenges Orangecrest Community Church attendees to sacrifice themselves to support the building project the church has started right before the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020.
“Priorizing the mission of Christ comes at a cost,” Senior Pastor Josh De La Rosa told Baptist Press. “Because of inflation, our construction costs have increased by 11%. Donations are slightly lower than last year’s donations to date. We are about 0.5% behind last year’s donations after the first quarter. But generally, we see about a 7% increase in donations year over year.
“This is a slight downturn in the church. It could be inflation, but it could also be that we are coming out of our first election campaign. … Overall, I would say I don’t really see a slowdown.
Inflation does not affect all prices equally. Gasoline, housing and some foods in particular rose above the average rate of inflation.
“It’s important to consider that some products become more expensive than inflation,” said David Spika, chief investment officer of GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. “Supply chain issues can make certain items harder to find, driving up demand. This, in turn, drives up prices further.
“It is safe to say that this impacts churches in the same way as it does small businesses, charities and consumers in general. It’s more expensive to refuel to take the van from church to camp,” Spika said. “It’s more expensive to have the air conditioner repaired or to buy supplies. More people need financial help than ever before. This is a cause of action for the Federal Reserve.
On average, an inflation rate of 8.5% means the dollar is worth nearly 9 cents less than a year ago.
But Simmons said an elderly member of Cornerstone Baptist Church saw his monthly rent go up from $1,100 to $1,500 and the value of some members’ homes rose 30-50%, driving up property taxes.
“We serve in a very low-income community,” Simmons said. “So there’s no ‘fat’ in our parishioners’ budget to begin with.”
Cornerstone, which runs many community outreach ministries including food, clothing and other essentials, medical care and laundry for the homeless, continues to serve by accessing savings, reducing the costs of creative way and waiving salary increases for staff.
Instead of meatloaf, the church serves more spaghetti and stew in its free meals. Instead of name brands, generic products are sought. The church watches for sales. His longtime outreach through Shalom Finance teaches members to streamline budgets and be more financially savvy. Homeowners facing higher taxes learn how to challenge property rate assessments and take advantage of any abatement programs available.
The food program designed to serve the homeless attracts others who could get a meal to supplement their food budget, with attendance at the soup kitchen up 15-18% since January, Simmons said. At the church’s baby shop, the number of those receiving nappies rose from an average of 975 per month to 1,367 in March.
“It got really difficult,” he said. “We’ve tried to be creative in mitigating all of those tough times to really stretch those dollars, realizing the need is even greater than it was before. We all have to make sacrifices to get through this. It really has a general impact on the faithful and the community. It’s a very, very difficult time. »
In Orangecrest, where the average age of members is their early 30s, rising housing costs are particularly difficult, especially for those trying to buy a home. Those who remained as staunch supporters of the ministry are committed to the sacrifices involved, De La Rosa said.
The church, which De Ra Rosa describes as portable, launched a two-year capital campaign in February 2020 to establish its first church campus on a 5.3-acre site. The first phase, the purchase and renovation of a facility, was estimated at $1.8 million, with the second phase including the construction of an auditorium estimated at over $5 million.
“We exceeded the amounts pledged during this two-year campaign, the actual sacrificial donations during the pandemic,” he said. “And we also saw an increase in our general giving at this time. … Our people just have this constant commitment to sacrifice to see us plant our roots here.
During the month of May, the church supports four nonprofit organizations, including a pregnancy support center that helps mothers with abortions. Inflation has created more opportunities to reach people in need, who feel more pressure to survive.
“We’ve actually seen an increase in outreach effectiveness right now,” he said. Community actions resulted in an attendance of over 600 on average, with Easter attendance of 818 being the highest in the church’s 15-year history.
“It’s a challenge for young families to be creative about how they manage and spend, how they save and I think even how they prioritize donations and generosity to kind of live on that edge. of faith,” De La Rosa said, “trusting the Lord rather than what we can see.