Culture At Large

Will the economic crisis get people into church?

Andy Rau

Is the current economic crisis a godsend for churches and evangelists?

It sounds a bit callous to phrase it like that, but a NYT article last week reported that church attendance is up in the wake of the ongoing economic downturn:

...since September, pastors nationwide say they have seen such a burst of new interest that they find themselves contending with powerful conflicting emotions — deep empathy and quiet excitement — as they re-encounter an old piece of religious lore:

Bad times are good for evangelical churches.

“It’s a wonderful time, a great evangelistic opportunity for us,” said the Rev. A. R. Bernard, founder and senior pastor of the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn, New York’s largest evangelical congregation, where regulars are arriving earlier to get a seat. “When people are shaken to the core, it can open doors.”

The excitement is partly founded on the idea (not entirely historically accurate) that America's periods of spiritual revival were all triggered by economic crises. One thinks immediately of the much-discussed spike in church attendance in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. But it's also worth noting that within a few months of that initial spike, church attendance was back to normal, with no sign of a real net increase. All of which raises a number of questions:

Has your church seen an attendance increase as the economy has worsened?

Has your church made any changes or adjustments specifically to address the financial concerns that weigh especially heavily on people's minds?

If it's true that more people will be showing up at church as a result of the current crisis, what can the church do to keep them from leaving again as soon as the crisis passes? Did the church as a whole botch its response to post-9/11 churchgoers, and if so... what should we do differently now?

If you've noticed any shift in church attendance or spiritual interest in your community, share what you've observed!

Topics: Culture At Large, Business & Economics, Money