Many churches face challenges in 2009 - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Many churches face challenges in 2009

by Danielle Wagner

WATERLOO (KWWL) At one time, First Presbyterian Church in Waterloo was the largest Presbyterian church in Iowa with 2600 members. Now, the church is trying to rebuild the congregation.

In 2009, churches like First Presbyterian face numerous challenges. Mainly, an aging congregation. Reverend David Wood said it's hard to hold on to younger church members.

"When I started in ministry 25 years ago it was very different. For instance, you had Wednesday off. The school never planned anything on Wednesday because they knew churches had choir, they had youth activities. Now, we're competing against that. Sunday morning there was never anything going on with schools or recreation leagues because they knew this was a sacred time for families," said Reverend Wood.

Having church members is also important for finances. The church relies on donations for salaries and building maintenance. More than Sunday offerings, the church counts on pledges people agree at the beginning of the year to contribute. But in tighter financial times, church budgets might also suffer.

"In terms of their giving patterns, just be consistent. Try to stay faithful, and if they come to the point thaty they can't, if their investments are such that they have to cut back, that's fine as well. Nobody is under any legal obligation to give," said Wood.

Reverend Wood said the church isn't about dollars and cents. That's why no matter what challenges First Presbyterian faces, missions will continue to grow.

"Because usually that's the first casualty with every church. When you see declining revenue, we to cut back on missions. Our philosophy is no. Maintain that mission," he said.

First Presbyterian operates a clothing closet, giving free clothes to women in need. The church also started a free community breakfast. Right now it's once a month, but will hopefully grow to every Sunday morning.

Reverend Wood said the church is about hope, and First Presbyterian Church will do it's best to pass that hope onto the community in 2009.

Online Reporter: Danielle Wagner

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