How Ministries Are Responding to Unemployment Survey


In January 2010 we asked members of ECCU’s Ministry Advisory Panel (MAP) to tell us how their ministries are responding to unemployment. Not surprisingly, 80% stated they were affected by unemployment, and 93% of those affected are proactively responding with new programs and tangible assistance (e.g., donations, food, grants). In addition, when asked how confident they were in their ministry’s ability to meet financial obligations in the next six months, two-thirds of the respondents (66.2%) felt confident.

**The MAP is composed of ECCU member and non-member evangelical ministry staff and leaders representing churches, Christian schools, and other evangelical ministries. This report was produced by ECCU’s research department.


In January 2010 we asked these two questions: Is your ministry affected by unemployment? If so, what is your ministry doing to help the unemployed? Here’s how the panelists responded:

  • 80% reported that they have been affected by unemployment as a result of the declining economy (20% reported that they have not been affected).
  • 93% of the ministries affected by unemployment are proactively developing programs and providing tangible assistance.

It is encouraging, but not surprising, to see the body of Christ stepping up to help those in need. So what are ministries doing to help those affected by unemployment?

  • 37.3% are providing things like food, cash, grants, clothes, gas, and housing.
  • 33.4% are providing assistance through financial management training, career coaching, and job-finding resources.

And while the current economic storm has left many victims in its path, it’s also stirring up new ministry opportunities to share God’s Word, recruit volunteers, and expand missions.

Fertile Ground

In the midst of this unpredictable economy, people in need are turning to the church for assistance and hearing God’s Word again or for the first time.

David Beckworth, assistant professor of economics with Texas State University conducted a research study in January 2009 titled Praying for a Recession: The Business Cycle and Protestant Religiosity in the United States. In it, he identifies a direct correlation between unemployment and church attendance by evangelical or born-again Protestant individuals.

One of our panelists commented:

“Several are unemployed in the church, but our giving numbers and attendance [are] up. We have held our budget to the same as the last three years. We have used volunteers for a lot more projects. We let other members know about who is unemployed and needs work.”

Volunteer Opportunities

What is an unemployed person to do when they’re not looking for a job? How about serve at the local church or mission? The needs are many and the laborers few. Those who unexpectedly have more time can greatly contribute to your ministries, if you’re prepared to harvest these opportunities.

Check out this perspective from one of our panelists:

“…we provide volunteer opportunities so that they stay active and involved with others—it keeps the spirit up.”

Missions Opportunities

Unemployment is causing many to consider opportunities they perhaps would not have considered before, including missions work.

One of our panelists stated:

“Historically, our recruitment actually increases as unemployment increases. God seems to use the trials of unemployment to move some people to more actively consider serving in missions.”


We also asked ministries: How confident are you that your ministry will be able to meet all of its financial obligations in the next six months?

This is the same question we asked in July 2009. Although two sets of data hardly constitute a trend, the results are encouraging:

Confidence Level July
Confident 59% 66% +7%
Somewhat Confident 25% 25% 0%
Neutral 8% 3% -5%
Somewhat Not Confident 8% 6% -2%
Not Confident 0% 0% 0%

Ministries are expressing greater confidence in their ability to meet their short-term financial obligations than they were halfway through last year. Does this mean that we’re out of the woods?

According to the University of Michigan economic forecast released in November 2009, U.S. unemployment is likely to dip from its post-depression all-time high in 2010 to 9.5% by the end of 2011.

The February 13, 2010, forecast from the White House Council of Economic Advisers indicates that the U.S. unemployment rate will hover around 10% throughout 2010. They expect unemployment to drop to 9.2% during 2011 and down to 8.2% during 2012.

(White House Budget Unemployment Forecast)

As of February 2010, the U.S. unemployment rate was at 9.7%.

Based on these statistics and the expectations of general analysts, we will continue to experience high unemployment, reduced spending/giving, and a slow economy for at least two more years.

Evangelical ministries are uniquely positioned and willing to help. Thank you for what you are currently doing. In case you’d like to do more or are wondering what other ministries like yours are doing, here are some excerpts from panelists’ comments to our survey question broken down into two categories: 1) Tangible assistance (e.g. donations, food, grants); and 2) Education, training, and support.

Tangible assistance being provided:

“We have a benevolent fund and a generous congregation that meets needs as they hear about them. This week we had one family give another family $900 in cash, and another family gave $500 to another family.”

“We held a special offering to help families in need and then made private and confidential decisions on how to spend the money raised. Ultimately we provided cash to five families that are currently unemployed and in financial distress.”

“If benevolence is requested we offer some financial assistance to very serious cases (those needing food and help with electric). Although we're limited in how we can help financially, we have compiled a list of outside resources to which we refer people.”

“We have set up a perishable pantry to help with food needs; we commit 1% of our giving to benevolence; we have a ‘swap’ board for people to share/receive items; members assist other members with home/car repairs.”

This is how some Christian schools are tangibly helping the unemployed:

“We have had an increase in those who need financial aid, and we allow some to ‘work off’ their balance.”

“We work with each family and set up special plans to help them keep their child enrolled in our school.”

“Yes, offering scholarships for families, food, gas, monetary help for rent and utilities”

Education, training, and support being provided:

“We have an unemployment support group that meets to encourage job seekers and coach them on resume and interview skills. This is led by volunteers in our body who have HR experience and backgrounds.”

“We have operated as a conduit for employers to notify us of openings.”

“We recently hosted a community-wide job fair that produced good results. We are planning a follow-up job fair in the spring.”

“We ran two networking support group sessions of 6–8 weeks each where we brought in speakers on a variety of topics.”

“We started a ministry called Economic Life Support to help people with interview skills, network with others, and provide a job fair each month.”

“We are offering financial management courses and helping connect resumes to ministry partners and member businesses.”

The body of Christ can help those in need in numerous ways. But as you provide this kind of help, keep an eye on your budget and make the necessary adjustments to ensure not only that you are able to run such a ministry or program, but also to ensure responsible stewardship of what God has entrusted to you.

“He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me? declares the Lord.”

—Jeremiah 22:16 (NIV)


If you find these survey reports helpful, please pass them along to other members of your ministry team and peers using the Share with a Friend tool below.

Get Connected