Inflation hits church ministry, operations across income levels • Bible Recorder

Photo of Cornerstone Baptist Church
Rising inflation has increased demand for diapers at the Cornerstone Baptist Church baby shop serving South Dallas mothers.

In the devastated South Dallas community of Cornerstone Baptist Church, inflation has led some members to choose between keeping gas in their tanks or driving to church.

“Donations are down because people now have to decide whether to donate or get gas to get to church,” the senior pastor of Cornerstone said. 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 the inflation rates are so much higher than they would have forecast in the budget.

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.

“Prioritizing Christ’s Mission Comes at a Cost,” Senior Pastor Josh De La Rosa says Baptist Press. “Due to 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 an increase of around 7% 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 [it] to slow down.”

Inflation does not affect all prices equally. Gasoline, housing and some foods in particular rose above the average rate of inflation.

“It is important to consider that some products become more expensive than inflation,” said David Spica, 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 it impacts churches in the same way as [affecting] 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 from $1,100 to $1,500, and the value of some members’ homes increased by 30% to 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 is attracting 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 communities. 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 [through] true sacrificial giving during the pandemic,” De La Rosa 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 Community Awareness Month in May, the church supports four nonprofits, 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,” De La Rosa 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 giving and generosity to somehow live on. that edge of faith,” De La Rosa said, “trusting the Lord rather than what we can see.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is the Senior Editor of Baptist Press.)

Charles K. Eckert