Just as homeowners borrowed too much or built too big during boom times, many
churches did the same and now are struggling as their congregations shrink and
collections fall owing to rising unemployment and a weak economy.
Since 2008, nearly 200 religious facilities have been foreclosed on by banks, up
from eight during the previous two years and virtually none in the decade before
that, according to real-estate services firm CoStar Group, Inc. Analysts and
bankers say hundreds of additional churches face financial struggles so severe
they could face foreclosure or bankruptcy in the near future.
"Churches are the next wave in this economic crisis," says Rev. Jesse L. Jackson
Sr., president and founder of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, a non-profit
civil-rights group, who works with pastors around the country to help churches
negotiate better terms with their bankers.
Religious denominations of all kinds have suffered in recent years as donations
have declined, with many Catholic parishes closing and synagogues merging their
congregations. But the property-financing problems have been concentrated among
independent churches, which while seeking to expand lack a governing body to
serve as a backstop to financial hardship...
Many troubled churches are in states such as California, Florida, Georgia and
Michigan, which also have some of the highest home-foreclosures rates in the
In many cases, churches ran into trouble after borrowing to build bigger houses
of worship needed to accommodate growing congregations in once-booming housing