Monday, December 8, 2014

Americans Aren’t Building Churches Like They Used To Anymore

Construction of religious buildings in the U.S. has fallen to the lowest level at any time since private records began in 1967. Religious groups will build an estimated 10.3 million square feet this year, down 6% from 2013 and 80% since construction peaked in 2002, according to Dodge Data & Analytics. In terms of dollars, spending on houses of worship totaled $3.15 billion last year, down by half from a decade earlier, according to Commerce Department figures.
The Rev. Rob Apgar-Taylor, of the Veritas United Church 
of Christ, holds services in a renovated former shoe factory 
in Hagerstown, Md. Kalim A. Bhatti for The WSJ
As the economy heals, churches, synagogues, mosques and temples may move forward with renovation and expansion projects put off during and after the recession. But church-building began to ebb well before the latest downturn.
Behind the decline is a confluence of trends: a drop in formal religious participation, changing donation habits, a shift away from the construction of massive megachurches and, more broadly, a growing taste for alternatives to the traditional house of worship.
“There’s been an awakening: If we can put more resources into ministry and not into infrastructure, it’s a better use of those resources,” said Sing Oldham, spokesman for the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S.
For the Rev. Rob Apgar-Taylor, the shifting sentiment plays out inside a renovated former shoe factory in Hagerstown, Md., where the Veritas United Church of Christ, which launched in 2011, holds Sunday services. Mr. Apgar-Taylor hopes to keep renting the space as his 30-member congregation grows.
“I don’t want to sit at a table and worry about how to get the roof replaced,” he said. He would rather focus on “how to reach out to kids in the community.”
The trends are far from universal across regions and faiths.
Read the rest of the story HERE.

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