East Texas churches affected by economy

By Courtney Lane - email

Posted by Ellen Krafve - email

The ailing economy is even starting to affect churches nationwide. On the Gulf of Texas, the devastation of last year's hurricanes coupled with the poor economy, is causing  some churches to close their doors. Others are having to lay-off church staff to survive.

St. Louis Baptist, Pleasant Hill Baptist, and Grace Community in Tyler, have all had members of their congregations laid-off. It is no wonder that giving has been affected.

"We're beginning to see some slight changes in contributions and probably in tithing and it's simply because in this area in particular, we've had so many layoffs," said Rev. Caraway of St. Louis Baptist Church.

"December was not as good as we'd been seeing in the past but we're still above budget at this point," said Jeffrey Johnson with Grace Community Church.

St. Louis Baptist was a Red Cross Shelter and had budgeted money to help hurricane evacuees. Pleasant Hill Baptist contributes to churches hammered by Hurricane Ike.

"[Contributions were] certainly down on the gulf coast after Hurricane Ike. A lot of folks lost their jobs, lost their homes, so discretionary income is focused on other things and so their giving has changed and that has an immediate impact on the local church," said Eric Barton with Pleasant Hill Baptist Church.

In East Texas, the economy alone is starting to cause some changes.

"Pine Cove, wonderful ministry camp, has been affected by the downturn, they've let go some of their staff," said Barton.

Fortunately, through smart budgeting and their faith, these East Texas churches are not suffering like some on the gulf coast, and, if anything, they're hoping these hard times will help people strengthen their faith and rely on God.

"Now is not the time to leave the church. I think now is the time that you really want to rely on your Christian faith," said Caraway. "Caring about one another and sharing the resources we have to get us through this tough economic time."

"We're pretty clear that when God says 'test me in this', test me with your finances," said Barton. "If we respond and give him what is already his then he blesses that."

The churches also say they are creating a safety net and saving what they can in case the economy gets worse.