U.S. financial crisis to hit mission groups

By October 1, 2008

USA (MNN) — The United States continues reeling after the House failed to pass a $700-billion Wall Street bailout package. That left its mark on financial markets worldwide. The financial crisis will have an impact on outreach, says the President and CEO of The Mission Society, Phil Granger.

"There are so many people today," says Granger, "that are tied to the stock market, either through their retirement plans, or they are retired and they're getting money off their portfolios, or their employment and possibilities whether or not their employment is going to continue."

Granger, a former CEO of a large financial institution, says that's going to put pressure on discretionary income. "A tremendous amount of downsizing is going to take place and cause people to assess what they're doing with their discretionary income. So they say, 'Should I start putting money aside because I may not have a source of money in the future, or the source may be substantially smaller?'"

The Mission Society has been affected by a financial crisis before. "The last time we as an organization had a direct effect by what was going on in the markets was when the dot-com's blew up in 2000-2001. Our income went down something like 35 to 40-percent," Granger adds.

That will mean drastic changes, says Granger. "You can just tighten your belt so much before the belt tightening has to move on to people. When you talk about a ministry in mission work and even evangelism work, well over 80-percent of your budget really is around people."

While Granger says he's seeing some people panic, it's not widespread. "We are at a point where there is a high level of distrust and discouragement. And the more that builds, the more people will retrench and hold on to the little bit that they've got."

He's cautioning ministries to take action. "We're being as conservative in our expenditures right now as we possibly can be. All discretionary items are now out of the budget. We're just going through all of the parts of the operation."

While the economic situation looks precarious, Granger says it's also good for outreach. "In the midst of economic tensions, and in the midst of anything that makes people feel vulnerable, that's an absolutely a marvelous opportunity to start to introduce people to the God that really loves them no matter what's going on around them."

Granger, however, is encouraging Christians to think about eternity in their spending. "If they have to make a decision about where an extra dollar is going to go, instead of buying that super-sized Coke,  they might continue to support the ministry of their choice with that dollar so that the spiritual needs of people can be touched."

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