Thursday, December 31, 2009

Flat Busted Broke in a Megachurch World

Aerial Photo of the Saddleback Church under construction

I am no enemy of religion. I like my religion just fine. Yours is your business. Religion isn’t the problem. Fundamentalists are always a problem, no matter what faith they espouse.

The Saddleback Church in Southern California is desperate for funds. Why? What did they do to put themselves in hock? Did they build too big of a sanctuary? What happened?

Evangelical pastor Rick Warren appealed to parishioners at his California megachurch Wednesday to help fill a $900,000 deficit by the first of the year.

Warren made the appeal in a letter posted on the Saddleback Church Web site. It begins “Dear Saddleback Family, THIS IS AN URGENT LETTER.”

“With 10 percent of our church family out of work due to the recession, our expenses in caring for our community in 2009 rose dramatically while our income stagnated,” the letter reads.

Still, Warren said the church managed to stay within its budget, but “the bottom dropped out” when Christmas donations dropped. “On the last weekend of 2009, our total offerings were less than half of what we normally receive — leaving us $900,000 in the red for the year,” the letter reads.

“It’s basically having to do more with less,” church spokesman A. Larry Ross said. “The seasonal Christmas offering was down significantly and, commensurately, the need for services the church is expected to provide is up,” Ross said.

When you say “the bottom dropped out” it really means that the expected drop in donations exceeded anything they could have anticipated. Being embedded in the California economy has obviously helped the church expand during good times, and now, beg for money in lean times. Much of that money is going to have to come from outside of the church, or, the the church is going to have to cut costs and liquidate assets.

I wondered if there was a special financial counselor category of financial advisor that deals with churches and liquidation, and, sure enough, yes there is:

Church & Non-profit Accounting
Through the years Mr. Orrin and his firm have developed special expertise in the relevant accounting laws and procedures for churches and non-profit organizations. Serving hundreds of ministers and their churches throughout the Northwest, Orrin and Associates has become a trusted source for consultation and services. Phill Orrin serves as financial advisor to a number of boards for churches and church-related organizations throughout the Northwest.

Mr. Orrin, being located in Spokane, may not be convenient to the Saddleback Church, but at least there is a non-profit specialty out there in the accounting world, which I did not know. Sounds to me like the Saddleback Church needs to find someone creative who can help them stay afloat.

Worshipping the devil does make sense in a down economy. You can pay tribute to mighty Satan in your own home, and you don’t need the overhead of a big, fancy church.

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