Ministries Dig Deeper in Tough Economy

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NEWPORT NEWS, Va. -- Youth Challenge has met the needs of hurting people in this local community for some 30 years.

Recovering drug addict Brad Daniels happily testified that the ministry has helped to transform his life. He is now free of drugs and is a follower of Jesus Christ.

Click the player to watch the report from CBN News Reporter Charlene Israel followed by Pat Robertson's comments on how God takes care of his people.

"I was an alcoholic and used cocaine," said Daniels.

Youth Challenge's founder, Troy Collier proudly admitted, "we're deemed the most successful program particularly by the judicial system and probation and parole offices. We have people many stories of God's miracles spread all around."

But the country's economic woes has Youth Challenge facing challenges of his own.

Ministry Donations Down

Last year, donations to the ministry were down 30 to 40 percent, and that has forced the ministry to find other ways to bring in income. For example, the ministry runs a thrift story and an auto repair shop to help out.

But what's happening with Youth Challenge is just a snapshot of what's happening around the country with other ministries.

Dan Busby is president of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability.

In an interview with CBN News, Busby said, "a number of ministries especially the ones that were more challenged at the end of the year have taken some steps with regard to personnel in many cases, hiring freezes have been imposed and salary freezes have been imposed and other non personnel issues. There's been cut backs in travel, convention related expense, building programs have been put on hold."

Less Money for Giving

With more job layoffs announced almost daily, many people have less money to spend, and some say they are exercising caution and giving less.

Verne Williams of Virginia Beach, Va., said the recession has made him take a closer look at his giving.

"It caused me to kind of look at my circumstances, maybe I need to reduce this, reduce that, so I've been a little apprehensive," he said.

Actions like that have forced ministries to cut spending. Organizations including Focus on the Family and the Billy Graham Association have laid off workers. Donations to the Salvation Army's Red Kettle campaign set a record of $130 million last year, but the ministry says giving in some cities is down.

Cutbacks at the state and local government level add to the problem according to Independent Sector, a coalition of charities and other non-profits.

The group estimated that at least $15 billion, 18 percent of all government funding to nonprofit human service providers, is being delayed.

In turn, some faith-based groups have eliminated programs, cut jobs, are are trying to borrow money in an already tight market.

Now, a budget plan from the Obama administration could reduce donations to faith-based organizations even further.

Obama to Reduce Tax Break for Giving

The President wants the tax break for charitable donations reduced from 35 percent to 28 percent for people who make more than $ 250,000 a year.

One study estimates charitable giving would fall by almost five percent under that plan.

Dan Celia is Executive Director of the Regency Foundation, a group that provides Christian financial planning. He said the President's plan is the wrong move at the wrong time.

"It's expected giving this year is going to be down 40 percent on the 42 percent it was down last year. There are ministries that are going to be in trouble and this is going to hurt charities across the board, Salvation Army, Red Cross, not to mention the proclamation of the gospel and all those ministries," Celia said.

But not all of the news is bad. The ECFA found that 72 percent of its member ministries reported that they met or came within 10 percent of last year's financial goals.

Some Ministries Fare Better than Others

ECFA's Busby told CBN News why some ministries have fared better than others.

"The impact of the economy is uneven across churches and other Christian organizations. I think some of the organizations that came into the recession in a weak financial position have been impacted the greatest because they simply don't have the flexibility that organizations that came in better prepared," he explained.

Meanwhile, pastors see the the country's economic turmoil as a time to encourage their members to trust God, not the economy.

Mark Stafford pastors Light of Life Christian Center in Virginia Beach, Va. He said the church must turn to God during this time.

God's Economy

"What we must do with the people of God is encourage them that God's economy is not tied to the earth's economy and God will bless. We see it all throughout the scripture. He did that with the children of Israel. He blessed them and fed them while other people were in famine and we've seen this through Christian history," Stafford explained.

His message resonates with many, like Michelle Littman of Virginia Beach, Va. She told CBN News, "me and my husband both we're not stopping giving to the Lord. That is what the Bible says, you give, you keep giving, you give of yourselves as well not just the tithe but ourselves."

Busby said the country's recession is a time for Christians to to be thankful for what they have.

"We are very blessed people even though all of us may have been impacted by the economy. I think it's a time for prayer for both the churches and para-church organizations and a time to pray for donors that God will bless them so they can bless the churches and para-church organizations as well."

Prayers and support are what ministries like Youth Challenge depend on, because without them, they would be forced to close their doors for good.

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Charlene Israel

Charlene Israel

CBN News Reporter

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