By Victor Ochieng
Churches don’t get funding from the government, meaning they’ve got to sustain themselves through tithes and offerings from congregants. Nevertheless, the urgency of the good news of the Kingdom of God can’t be sidelined, which also means churches can’t stop evangelizing or holding their weekly services because of lack of funds.
For churches in well-off neighborhoods, however, funding their church activities isn’t a problem because their financially endowed members oil the church accounts with overwhelming generosity. However, in poor neighborhoods, the narrative is totally different.
Take the case of Yoan Mora, senior pastor of Primera Iglesia Cristiana, a small church in San Antonio, Texas. He has so much to do at the church, including chairing meetings, offering Bible lessons, overseeing worship services, managing church budgets, and overseeing church building maintenance, as well as being there for his congregation at all times. These are just but a few of the things he has to do. While all these only befit someone serving as a full-time pastor paid by the church, Mora also has a day job, working as an accountant at a health-care clinic. But that’s not all; he’s also studying for a master’s degree in theology.
Why does he have to work as an accountant if he already has so much to do?
Well, Mora serves a congregation that’s in an extremely low-income area. Because pastors are normally paid from church budgets, which are in turn funded by congregants, the case of Mora is a tricky one. In poor neighborhoods, like in Mora’s case, the growth of the congregation doesn’t result in a substantial growth in the church account. Clearly, therefore, Primera Iglesia Cristiana isn’t in a position to pay Mora enough to have him around full-time, meaning in the foreseeable future, he’s going to have to work some other jobs to fund his household budget.
With almost everything revolving around money, churches are becoming over the more economic institutions. When you look at churches in American suburbs and tonier areas, they’re conducting numerous activities and are very active in the community. However, those in poor neighborhoods stagnate even if they’ve been around for decades. Most of them tend to look old and are small. Their activities are equally limited in the communities where they’re located.
With church budgets putting pressure on congregants, sociologists like Robert Putnam and Ram Cnann are saying religious participation in lower class neighborhoods is on a serious decline.
The irony is that poor neighborhoods are where most people have serious mental and physical health challenges, drug addiction, low-level educational attainment among other societal challenges, yet statistics show that churches, because of their strong social connections with the community, help alleviate such ills. Unfortunately, because of lack of funds, the number of churches in poor neighborhoods continue to dwindle.