overheard: megachurches add local economy to their mission
one of the persistent criticisms of megachurches has been that the tax-exempt facilities they own as well as the strain such facilities put on local utilities leads to a drain on the church's local economies. in fact, a few weeks ago christianitytoday.com reported* that a few counties in florida are starting to limit the number of churches that can be incorporated within their jurisdictions due to the demand such facilities put on local resources.
for these reasons, i was surprised to click open the new york times this morning and find a well balanced consideration of the positive and negative influences american megachurches are having on their local economies. one of the churches that is featured has developed a sports dome that is the largest inflatable sports facility not only in anchorage, where the church is located, but in north america. other churches, such as t.d. jakes' potter's house in dallas are in the midst of building mixed-use residential communities that are inspired by the new urbanism movement in architecture.
as the article explains in much greater detail, the sports facilities, shopping centers, credit unions, western inspired theme parks and neighborhoods that these churches are birthing raise thorny questions about the relationship between tax-exempt organizations and for-profit corporations in any given community. however, if these new initiatives create jobs, serve the needs of the people, revitalize underutilized facilities and expand the tax base in local communities, i can see their value. of course, far too many of these initiatives are probably adding to urban sprawl, carefully skirting property taxes and demanding a disproportionate allocation of their church's budget, but in an economy that is trending downward i am more open to such developments than i have been previously.
so that's my opinion, not that it matters. if you are not interested in reading the article, check out the nifty slide show that accompanies the article.
* i tried to locate the CT article that discussed these matters but was unable to do so.