Area Churches Feeling Money Pinch

SNOW HILL – Donations are down slightly at area houses of worship, and churches are cutting back, but business will go on as usual, local institutions say.

“We’ve seen a little decrease. It’s hard to figure for us. Here in Ocean City it’s so seasonal,” Father Richard Smith of St. Luke’s Catholic Church said. “We’re down in our core donations. Not a lot, but we are down.”

“It’s tight. One of the first places it goes is charities and churches,” said Pastor Terry Davis of Ocean City Baptist Church. “But we’re doing okay.”

Smith estimated that St. Luke’s is seeing a one to two percent decline in donations. “It’s a concern, but we’re not waving the red flag yet,” he said.

Stevenson United Methodist missed making budget this year, but not by much, said church secretary Shirley Scott. “I can’t say it’s because of the recession,” she said.

Churches are taking commonsense precautions to keep expenses down.

“We have to be very careful. We’re looking at everything we do,” said Smith. “We’ve taken a serious look at out own office and what kind of expenses we can eliminate.”

Davis is taking the same approach. “We’re tightening our belt and looking hard at our budgets,” he said.

Power bills are one expense affecting church and citizen alike.

“We worked on how we use our utilities. We turn off lights and when we’re not doing services, we cut our heat out,” Davis said.

“If we didn’t have such a high electric bill, we’d be in good shape,” Scott said.

St. Luke’s has switched to a budget payment plan for power bills, which spreads out costs and minimizes the impacts of fluctuating prices.

The church has also eliminated its rented postage meter, started shopping around for less expensive paper and other supplies, and explored shutting off parking lot lights a few hours earlier.

While donations are down, churches are asking churchgoers to think about helping out.

“We encourage our parishioners to be generous within their means. That’s the way we address it,” said Smith. “We don’t want to take away from people’s needs.”

One way Smith has kept donations flowing is by listing the costs of major bills in the church newsletter. “It gives them a sense of ownership,” he said.

Members seem to be tithing as usual, according to Scott. “It seems they’re cutting down in other places. People are just supportive to the needs of the church. They do make that a priority,” Scott said.