*The recession was a double-barrel blow to American congregations: directly hurting their budgets while also stretching them thin due to increased needs for counseling, emergency housing and other social services.

But the worst seems to be over, according to a report released today that found that one in 10 have begun to recover from the loss, and more than 40 percent are now stable or increasing financially.

The “Holy Toll” report, based on the 2010 Faith Communities Today national survey of more than 20 religious groups, found that more than half (57%) of U.S. congregations reported their income had declined due to the recession.
Researcher David A. Roozen, director of the Hartford Institute for Religion Research, said larger congregations seem to be recovering more easily as endowments and investment income rebound, and more members who can help them grow their way out of deficits.

His theory echoes last month’s State of the Plate report by the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability and Christianity Today International’s church management team, which found smaller churches had suffered a disproportionate drop in giving last year.

Roozen’s survey, based on data from more than 11,000 congregations, found the recession had hurt congregations across the spectrum, surprising researchers who “almost always find differences” between evangelical and mainline Protestant churches.

Nine percent of congregations said the recession had prompted layoffs or furloughs, and just over a quarter of congregations reported salary freezes or reductions.

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