I originally wrote this in 2008 when gasoline went to $4 a gallon. I revised it in April 2011 gas when it hit $4 again. In 2015 it precipitously dropped. Yay! But I’m saving this blog post for when the price goes back up.
(In 2012 we started attending a church that “a drive” from our home. That drive eventually got expensive, even with lower priced gas.)
The cost of going to church has DOUBLED within the past 2 years because gas prices have doubled. And experts predict they could go higher.
Imagine what that means for your members who don’t live close to the church.
EXAMPLE & IMPACT:
“Jane” is spending close to $500 a year on gas to go to your church.
Here’s the breakdown: Jane lives 5 miles from your church and drives the family to church each Sunday in a minivan that gets 15 miles mpg in the city. Roundtrip = 10 miles. Rounded for the sake of argument at today’s $4+ per gallon = It costs Jane $3 in gas on Sunday.
But Jane also brings the kids to fellowship on Wednesday night (that’s another $3), PLUS, she comes to Thursday night choir practice ($3), once a month to the Mission meeting (another $3), and once or twice a month to drop off clothing or help with a project. All totaled, Jane is driving about 150 “church miles” a month. At 15 miles to the gallon, and $4 a gallon for gas, that’s about $40 per month or $500 a year.
Now add Jane’s husband who goes to HIS OWN events and meetings, and Jane’s teenage son who goes to youth group every Sunday. They go to church together (except when the son wants to drive his own car). Now you’re in the neighborhood of $600+ a year in gasoline just to belong to your church.
If gas goes up another 10% this year, as many experts predict, Jane’s family will need $660 to get to your church. If it goes up another 20% to $5 a gallon as some predict, then Jane’s family will need $720 just to get to your church.
That’s crazy. (And imagine the cost of this for a member who lives 10 miles away!)
Studies have shown that that $4 gas prices are finally forcing people to cut back their driving. As they rise, will they also force people to re-evaluate which churches they belong too and how often they go? Time will tell.
If your church is a “regional” church, such as a downtown church, then gas prices are SURE to affect many of your member’s decisions EVEN MORE, –and perhaps even their decision to join.
Things you can do to help:
1. Carpool. Help members who live at a distance to connect with each other and carpool. Carpooling might just encourage their attendance too! …as they will be calling to remind each other about meetings and events. One simple way is to post a large map with pushpins at your church. Another way is to “sort” names in your church directory by location, rather than by alphabet, and print copies of it (and post on your website). Appoint a ‘captain’ of each ‘precinct’ to contact members about carpooling.
And imagine the indirect effect of members driving members! Fellowship, pastoral care, attendance increases.
2. Consolidate Meeting Schedules. Look at your schedule and try to have “meeting nights” so that husband and wife who volunteer can drive together. Hold adult Bible studies during kids fellowship events.
3. Encourage alternatives to “driving to Church.” Publish bus schedules. Encourage “BIKE NIGHTS” or “Walk-in Nights.” Not every one could do this, but it would send a positive message, and in some churches create a positive stir!
4. Reduce unnecessary meetings. ’nuff said.
5. Utilize technology. Explore virtual meeting tools, such as message boards and even video cam meetings. Use email to replace “report” meetings.
6. Get 2 events for every 1 drive to church by creating “Team Huddles” that piggyback on other events which most team members are already attending, such as, after worship, or before a Bible study. Most committees I’ve been on could easily cut their regular meeting dates by two-thirds, if they’d just plan for face-to-face before/after other events.
7. Discuss with members how the cost of driving to church can be dramatically affected by having a more fuel-efficient car, …or if they have two cars in the garage to choose from, -picking the more fuel efficient car to get to church. I know of one church that even brought an all-electric car to the church parking lot one Sunday so that people could test drive it.
8. Encourage members to consolidate driving to church events (instead of mom going early for choir and dad bringing the kids, for example). Encourage them to plan OTHER ERRANDS to coincide with church events.
9. Create an Emergency Fuel Fund for members who can’t afford to get to church (or to the doctor or to work).
10. Get your Leaders working on adding more great ideas to this list!
Will Gas Prices Affect Giving?
Undoubtedly, and even more so this time around due to the recent recession. If my family is spending $700 next year driving to your church, that’s money I can’t GIVE to the church. Now multiply that by the number of OTHER families having to spend that.
In one small church I used to belong to, MANY families lived more than 5 miles from the church. 20 families in that small church were easily living 5+ miles away. Collectively, they were spending $14,000 a year just to get to church in 2007. In the small church I belong to now, the average member lives 5 miles away or more.
It is good stewardship for a church to be actively helping its members save money and address energy consumption. It’s also financially smart.
I’ve been writing other posts here about churches going green and SAVING MONEY. See them in my “Green Jesus” category at http://sundayresources.net/neil/category/greenjesus/