What's a Congregation Worth?
The "good news" of churches' work in communities.

As cities and counties continue to eye possible taxes and fees for churches and religious organizations, interesting new research from The University of Pennsylvania's Ram Cnaan examines the economic value of a congregation to its surrounding community.

Using information from congregations in Philadelphia, Cnaan says churches, on average, provided $476,663.24 of services in 2009 to their surrounding communities.

He's now about to release information from a pilot study of 12 historic churches in Philadelphia, with one estimated to provide $6.1 million of services to the community (nearly 10 times its annual budget). Here's a graphic from the April issue of Christianity Today, our sister publication, detailing how Cnaan's research led to that conclusion.

Something else to note: Cnaan describes himself as "nonreligious," according to Christianity Today.

This content is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is published with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought. "From a Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations."


Displaying 1–3 of 3 comments

G Nicholson

June 21, 2011  10:35am

Taxing church property is not about underestimating the worth of the service provided, but rather it is a way to gain control of more revenue for the government to use as it sees fit. It is about controlling the use of the funds. Some politicians want government, not churches, to decide what to fund, so they want to take the money away from churches and give it to the bureaucrats to disperse as they see fit. To them, churches are the competition, not partners. Fortunately, not all politicians feel this way. We the people will have to protest loudly to prevent this take-over of programs now funded by churches. We must be aware of this when considering our votes.

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Mark Simmons

May 03, 2011  12:48pm

I too will be interested in this–in particular to see what we are missing in assessing this for our church. Here is a few services we though of that provide major economic value to our community. - FREE English as a Second Language classes to over 300 people at a time (when our city cut it's budget in this area, they referred people to us) - Annual Easter Egg Hunt to 1,000-1,500 each year (been doing almost 30 years and the City acknowledges our church as the one that does this for the community) - Fall Harvest Festival to 1,500 each year - Pre-school for 100, and K-8 private school for 600 (saves bunches in tax dollars) - The economic impact of changed lives (lower crime, dependence on government services, etc.) - All our low to no cost programs from Sunday School to Sports & Creative Arts Camps, VBS, DayCamp, Dinner Theater, Financial Peace University, Estate Planning, First Aid Training, Blood Pressure monitoring, exercise classes and on and on - Benevolence services and local ministries we participate in and support - Our Crisis Intervention and Response Ministry is the backbone of the volunteer portion of emergency response in our community. Your church probably has others we don't have, or you haven't thought of some of these in terms of their economic benefit to the community.

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Jack Wellman

April 28, 2011  5:31pm

I would really be interested in this information when it is released. As a pastor of one of the smallest and poorest congregations in Kansas, our worth is in our community service as part of our Outreach and that is hard to put a price tag on...for those we serve, it is priceless.

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