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Impact of the 2008 Recession on Churches

Sponsor: The Barna Group
Released: 2008-12

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Two out of every three families – 68% – have been noticeably affected by the financial setbacks in America.

Born again adults were slightly less likely than were others to have sustained such substantial financial losses in recent months. While 30% of the born again public has lost 20% or more of its retirement portfolio value, the same was true for 37% of non-born again adults. Similarly, just 31% of the born again segment had lost 20% or more of the value of their stocks and bonds compared to 36% among the non-born again Christians.

During the past three months, one of the ways that adults have adjusted to their financial hardships has been by reducing their charitable giving. In total, one out of every five households (20%) has decreased its giving to churches or other religious centers. Church cutbacks have been most common among downscale households (30%) and those families which are struggling with “serious financial debt” (43%). Not surprisingly, 31% of those who have lost 20% or more of their retirement fund value have sliced their church donations, as have 29% of the people who have lost 20% or more of the value in their stock portfolio.

Among those who attend a Christian church, the survey found that one-third (35%) said their church had offered a special talk about the financial situation and ways to respond to it. Such a presentation was more commonly cited by those who attend a Protestant church (38%) than by those who attend a Catholic church (27%). A similar proportion (37%) said their church had offered specific opportunities for personal financial counseling. This response was more frequently cited by those who attend a Protestant church (39%) than by those who attend a Catholic church (28%). Providing special prayer support for those who were struggling financially was noted by 73% of church-goers. Once again, this response was more likely to be identified by Protestants (78%) than by Catholics (64%). About half of Christian church attenders (52%) said that their church had increased the amount of material assistance made available to congregants during the past three months, such as food, clothing and other basic needs. In this case, there was no difference in the responses of those attending a Catholic church and those going to a Protestant congregation.