Inflation hits church ministry, operations across income levels

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

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.

giving is down, because people now have to decide whether to give or receive gas to get to church,” said Cornerstone senior pastor Chris Simmons. “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.

“Put Christ First assignment comes at a cost,” Senior Pastor Josh De La Rosa told The 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 have risen 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 almost 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.”

Charles K. Eckert