Church finances in much of the United States looks bleak. An article in Bloomberg by Alex Wittenberg, July 13, 2020 investigated some of the financial history and weaknesses in church finance.
According to the article churches became more comfortable taking on debt in the 1990s, and by 2006 church borrowing had reached $28 billion nationwide. After the financial collapse of 2008, there was a marked increase in church foreclosures.
According to the National Congregations Study published in 2015, the median balance on church debt was $170,000 and a majority of congregations had less than $100,000 in annual income. According to Mark Chaves, a professor at Duke Divinity School who leads the National Congregations Study, 1/3 of U.S. congregations surveyed between 2018 and 2019 reported having no savings.
Before the pandemic, church attendance has been sliding for several decades. After physical church attendance fell to zero for months during lockdown, many churches faced even more severe financial issues. The President of Barna Group, an evangelical research firm, told the Economist in May 2020, that as many as one in five churches in the U.S. could close over the next 18 months.
As U.S. vaccinations become more available, we are hopeful that the financial situation of many churches will improve. A substantial number of churches could start coming on the market with few potential buyers. Many of these facilities will need to be readapted to an alternate use or in some cases redeveloped.
At CCAG we continue to closely monitor the religious property market. If you are in need of a church appraiser, please feel free to contact us.