Recession Packs 'Em in the Pews

As the economy crumbles, churches witness burst of interest
By Wesley Oliver,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 14, 2008 11:43 AM CST
Pastors find themselves contending with powerful conflicting emotions%u2014deep empathy and quiet excitement%u2014as they re-encounter a piece of religious lore: Bad times are good for evangelical churches.   (AP Photo/Akira Suemori)
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(Newser) – Hard times are emptying company payrolls and government coffers, but they’re big business for churches, reports the New York Times in a look at America's renewed Sunday-morning religious fervor. Since September, evangelical pastors in particular have reported a burst of interest and standing-room-only congregations. “It’s a wonderful time, a great evangelistic opportunity for us,” says one.

One study found that the growth rate at evangelical churches jumped by 50% during recessions between 1968 and 2004. To capitalize, churches are offering special programs and sermons on how to cope with financial stress, while others hope to mount revivals rivaling the 19th century Great Awakenings. “We need to leverage this moment,” another pastor said.