Lower attendance rolls, outside financial constraints for families and the fact that many younger people are often less likely to give as much are all contributing factors in concerns for those people responsible for finances at coastal Alabama churches.
Overall, giving is down among our 118 affiliating congregations, said C. Thomas Wright, executive director of missions for the which is part of the largest denomination in coastal Alabama.
The most significant contributor, Wright said, is a growing secularization of the culture. This means that the Bible and the church have no influence on their decisions, he said. He said some congregations have reduced staff or ministries to stay within their budgets.
We also have several churches who are exploring merging or disbanding, Wright said.
But others say things are good.
Across the Archdiocese of Mobile, which includes 28 counties in south Alabama, giving is up slightly from the previous year, said Archbishop Thomas J. Rodi. One example of people s generosity, Rodi said, is the response to the Appeal. This year, giving exceeded its largest-ever goal of .3 million.
The people of Alabama are very generous, Rodi said. National studies indicate that Alabama is consistently one of the top three most generous states in these United States.
Wright, with the Baptist association, said that the overall decline in giving doesn t mean that there aren t specific examples where churches are thriving and growing. We also have multiple congregations, large and small, that have more income than expected in the budget, he said.
One apparently thriving Baptist congregation is Luke 4:18 Fellowship, which constructed a new sanctuary on Sollie Road last year. Its senior pastor, Rev. Fred Wolfe, was the longtime pastor of one of Mobile s mega-churches, Cottage Hill Baptist.
He said Luke 4:18 Fellowship has many older members who grew up giving to churches. Younger generations as a whole are less committed to attending and giving, Wolfe said. The younger the church, the more difficulty it has financially, he said.
Despite an overall decline in giving, Wright said the association is actively training church planters and starting new churches that are relevant and effective at reaching the cultures of Mobile.
which has a Southern Baptist heritage but is "multi-denominational," is an example of a mostly young congregation that is thriving, drawing thousands to its Fairhope campus each week. Last year, it was listed among the 100 fastest-growing churches by Outreach magazine in 2013.
Another contributing factor to financial concerns is the economic downturn.
Rev. Tom Boone, interim pastor of The Cornerstone Baptist Church in Semmes, said that across denominations, a higher cost of living is making it more difficult for people to contribute financially and for churches with few members to survive.
which began 51 years ago as Second Baptist Church, voted recently to disband. The decision came about for a variety of factors that were made worse by the economy, Boone said. People left through whatever situation it was. The congregation came to the realization that they could no longer operate with what was going on in the church, he said.
Cornerstone has since merged with 3Circle Church and will be the Fairhope congregation's new campus in Mobile County.
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