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Religious Ministry Predictions When the Economy Is Hurting

In the context of this struggling economy, let me go out on a limb and make a few predictions of things we’re going to see in religious and non-profit media over the next year:

1)  The “easy way out” will be big.  Prosperity and gimmick guys will do well.  It’s because too many people look for easy answers in a tough economy.  Get set for more Jesus Junk and con-artists.

2) The pool will shrink – religious organizations and non-profits are getting fewer in number.  If you can survive, there will be less choice for givers in the future, and you may actually emerge stronger than ever.  While that sounds a bit crude, I think it will be reality.

3)  Lot’s of re-organization (to no avail).  Too many people think “reorganizing” means “progress.”  So when times get tough, they have meetings and reorganize things instead of actually being productive.

4)  Panic will ruin a lot of good organizations.  In tough times, too many leaders make decisions they’ll regret later.

5)  Those without a long-term strategy will fail.  If you’ve been simply living from month to month then get set for a shock.  The organizations that survive this downturn will be organizations that are strategically planning for the future.  At Cooke Media Group, strategy matters for our clients.  So start thinking long-term.

What am I missing?

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  1. We’re already seeing some of that. My church just had to slice out $500,000 from their budget. As a result, they let go 8 full-time staff members and trimmed down the hours of 15 other employees. A lot of frustration and anger ensued…

    On the flip side, they have a $14 million building loan, in which they’re spending $1 million per year in interest (not to mention another $1.3 million on the principal). They were doing fine before because of continuous growth. In fact, they were planning a multi-million dollar addition to the main building not too long ago. But now, the industry that supported this town has fallen apart, and contributions have dropped.

    Budgets that worked a year ago are now crashing and burning.

  2. Trim $500k? What different worlds we live in… My church made the
    prayerful decision to increase our budget by about $10k (3%) despite
    running a ~$10k deficit in 2008… this decision is, of course, subject
    to approval by the congregation later this month, but it is our general
    belief that our budget should reflect what we are called to do – not
    what our spreadsheets say is possible.

  3. This may sound self serving, but I think we’re also going to see many more churches turn to a ‘virtual creative team’…freelance, contract work, outside studios will fill the gap left by downsizing of creative staff in a way that fits new budgets.

  4. I think we’re going to see the days of "were never going to ask for money on television" end and hopefully see responsible fundraising programs prevail.

  5. @

    The layoffs & cutbacks suck. BUt really!? A $14 million loan!!!? (The borrower is slave to the lender.) $1 million in interest/year!!? Yikes. I’d be interested to know the % the staff is of the budget- my guess is 60%+. I’m sorry things are going this way for you guys, but this seems to have been avoidable simply by following scripture when it comes to finances.




  6. Phil,

     I am looking fwd to seeing you at the NRB.

    I always enjoy your fresh perspective. Here is some info and ground rumblings that I have been hearing.

    We all know the bottom is really about to drop out. There are three phases people will go through. Phase one… Panic…Phase two…..Fear….Phase Three…..Survival.

    My resources tell me that 80% of the population will not make it to survival mode. We are in unprecedented times. Now is the time to get mentally prepared so that you don’t have get into Panic and Fear when it does happen. I personally have been planning since June 2008. 

    We have to live by God’s economy.. No Lack. No Debt. Unlimited Resources. Always increasing. Without sounding like prospertity preacher, which I am not. The reality is that money transfers it doesn’t go away or get barried somewhere where no one can get to it. I believe the Holy Spirit is working on overdrive to download information to us daily, we just simply need to hear from Him.

    Phil, I  agree with you most of the time, this is one situation that you are 100% right. Plan now.. 

    Here is my personal moto. plan, train, brief, execute, debrief, plan, train, execute, debrief, plan, train, execute……..




  7. As a non profit radio group, we took control of our fundraising strategy. We drilled down deep to make sure we were truely talking to our donors and listeners, not just talking at them with off the shelf agency tactics. Response has increased significantly. January donations are 17% ahead of January 08. We recognize that we may need smaller gifts from more donors this year. We are also keeping operations lean.

    You can’t under estimate the value of an engaged and passionate team. They are not the problem, they are the solutions.

    We just completed three years of aggressive leveraged aquisitions resulting in a huge debt load. It is not easy. We expect things will get tighter, and we have several levels of contingecies in our toolbox.

    We also know many of our listeners are hurting or scared. We have embraced the recession, we talk about it, provide wise expert Christian perspectives (beyond the news) resources, prayer and encouragement.

    Our new emphasis is not prosperity (never was) but a message that works in any culture, any economy, from the richest of the rich to the poorest of the poor: Generosity. Our campaign is “A 40 Day Spiritual Journey to a More Generous Life.” We believe this will lift everybody’s boat. Check out Brian Kluth’s

  8. don’t panic

    plan well and execute well (David Jones said it well a few posts ago)

    bottom line: this financial downturn did not take God by surprise… and He is faithful. Seems to me that if the Lord is establishing your plans, and you listen and obey… you’ll probably do just fine.

    on the other hand… if you’re working your own plan and simply asking God to bless it, then I hope you have some good gimmicks to rely on.

  9. #6: Some high-profile bloggers will subtly promote their consulting business as the "clincher" point (see #5 above) in a post about 2009 predictions.

    leaves bad taste in the mouth of some of the audience…

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