Church Cash Crunch - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Church Cash Crunch

By Jason Dennis - bio | email | Twitter

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) -

 

In a recession, one of the first things to go is charitable giving, and these days, it's hurting a lot of churches.

Now, some local churches are stepping out in faith - using creative ideas to climb out of debt and encourage people to give tithes and offerings. We take a closer look in our special report "Church Cash Crunch."

The choir at Body of Christ Church in Phenix City, AL loves to sing "How Great is Our God," not exactly the blues, but many churchgoers these days have fallen on hard times. And the less they make, the less they have to give.

Their senior pastor, Bishop Gregory Blue, says tithing is way down, because of the recession and troop deployments.

"There was a time when there was a lot of people who just didn't have it to give," said Bishop Blue of Body of Christ Church.

That includes congregation member Michael Thomas, who told us, "It hurt me when my wife lost her job, we couldn't pay the tithes like we were supposed to."

The challenge for churches and members today is finding creative ways to raise money and stay afloat.

Bishop Blue looks at it this way: "The bible says, He will give us the ability to create wealth, get wealth, he gave us witty ideas and inventions, god would."

Bishop Blue discovered a marketing business, where anyone could sell cosmetics, nutritional supplements, and reshaping garments.

Now, 20 members of his congregation are reps for Ardyss International, some beginners making at least $1,000 a month, others much more. More money in pockets of folks like Thomas means more given to his phenix city church.

"It makes me feel real good, because I really don't like when I can't give," Thomas said.

"They can make some money and one of the first things you see them do is give with a smile," Bishop Blue added.

Columbus, GA pastor Mike Ricker turned to organized prayer, as his Wynnton United Methodist church recently faced a deficit.

"It is a challenge to come before your people and say, this is a need we have at this time," Pastor Ricker told us.

Then, he says he took a step of faith with biblical principles.

Pastor Ricker said, "I think about kingdom economics...one in Mathew 7:7, He said ask and it will be given to you."

He was open with his congregation about being in the red, asking for them to give, then praying for needs to be met. And they were. Collection plates filled up, and Wynnton United Methodist had two of the biggest giving months in the church's history.

"The congregation, in faith, responded and by the grace of God, we were able to erase the deficit," Pastor Ricker said.

Longtime Wynnton United Methodist member Betty Woodruff knows it's tough out there, saying, "You see some churches, they just can't stay open or cannot operate all their programs, because of the lack of money."

And for the churches able to keep their doors open, about half of them, this year alone, have not been able to meet their giving goals, some even cutting staff from their churches.

Body of Christ Church in even leased out their building for a full year, holding services in Columbus' Liberty Theater.

"Moving, we could take some of the expenses off and keep the congregation together," Bishop Blue said.

But they moved back to their Phenix City home in February - tightening their budget, while selling garments to help people tighten their belts.

Bishop Blue showed off the products, saying "Everybody who puts it on, women, don't want to take it off."

To some, he may sound more like pitchman than pastor, but Bishop Blue calls it a win, win.

"It's not just a fundraising project, even though it does help the church, because people now have their self-esteem and their dignity back," Blue added.

Woodruff admits, "Most all of us are blessed so much, we need to give back to the Lord."

And church leaders try to keep the faith, hoping for results like what happened at Wynnton United Methodist Church in Columbus, GA.

"It's a testament to the power of prayer and the generosity of God's people," Pastor Ricker said.

On average, church members nationwide give a little more than 2 % of their income to their church, While some pastors point to scripture about tithes being 10 %.

As for Bishop Blue, he's now traveling to other churches, helping their members become reps selling the health and beauty products. His message to other churches: don't be afraid to try new things to boost giving.

 

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