Posts Tagged ‘recession’

Five hopeful signs for U.S. congregations

How tough have times become for religious leaders? Benedict XVI became the first pope to resign in six centuries, declaring both strength of mind and body are necessary to oversee the church “in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith.” Yet there are also more hopeful trends about the health and mission of houses of worship. The latest wave of the U.S. Congregational Life Survey, now available for download and exploration on the Association of Religion Data Archives, shares elements of growth and ongoing strengths in congregations.

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The high cost of service: Student debt burdens religious workers

As long as the money from federal loans rolls in, many seminarians find it hard to think ahead to how they are going to pay back the $40,000, $60,000 or $80,000 or more that is their chunk of a student debt tab that has reached $1 trillion. Yet what began as a critical problem for a small percentage of prospective clergy is reaching alarming levels as seminary students get swept up in a national crisis, new research indicates. It is not enough that growing numbers of clergy with burdensome loans report having to put off for years the ability to get married and start a family or buy a house. Now, graduates wanting to explore a religious vocation may be “too poor to take the vow of poverty,” one research center commented.

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Religious but not spiritual: The high costs of ignoring personal piety

New research shows a sharp decline in the percentage of U.S.congreations reporting high spiritual vitality and a drop in the number of churches empasizing spiritual practices such as prayer and Scripture reading. These trends conflict with growing evidence showing the importance of congregations cultivating the spiritual lives of the faithful. The reasons for the disconnect arre varied, but it is not because religious leaders can say they don’t know any better.

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What, me retire? Poor economy, pension issues challenge clergy, denominations

The optimists’ perspective of the coming retirement crunch facing U.S. churches is that many older clergy will have the income to leave full-time positions, but the health and sense of vocation to serve smaller rural and urban churches unable to afford full-time clergy. The pessimists’ perspective is that many spiritual leaders, financially ill-prepared for retirement, will stay on in pastorates as long as they can, exacerbating the clergy age gap and impeding efforts for denominational revitalization. There is evidence to support both viewpoints. What is not in dispute, however, is that the time to address the issue is now.

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‘Free riders’ and the recession: Churches face hard economic choices attracting new members

Is there a Groupon solution for houses of worship? Congregations struggling to emerge from the recession may be leery of encouraging “free riders,” individuals who use church services without paying the costs of providing those goods. But while attracting new members with free or reduced-price services may be risky investments, allowing some free riding also is necessary for the future of the church, some scholars conclude.

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