Almost a quarter of US churches are overspending

(Photo: Darren Deans)

Almost one in four Protestant churches in the US are spending more than their budgets allow, a new survey has found.

A study by Lifeway Research shows that only 29 per cent of churches have kept their spending below budget in 2014, while around half - 46 per cent - are on target and 22 per cent are exceeding funds.

"The most recent of recession revealed poor habits among Americans in term of spending and lending. Surely churches have had to learn some of these same lessons," Research Director at Lifeway, Scott McConnell, said.

"The current slow-growth economy does not allow individuals, businesses, or churches to slip into poor financial habits that may have been present seven or eight years ago. Everyone must be innovative in how efficient and productive each of their activities is."

Churches suffered during the economic downturn which first hit in 2008, with church-goers dropping their donations to an average of 2.43 per cent of their income that year.

However, Lifeway found that donations are once again on the rise, with over 70 per cent of Protestant churches reporting that parishioners have been more generous this year than last.

During the recession, Christian mental health charity Mind & Soul said that religious faith actually helped people to be more resilient in the face of financial hardship.

"Resilience factors like a sense of humour, a good upbringing are obvious, but studies also show that having a religious faith is a key factor," Rob Waller, Consultant Psychiatrist and Director, said.

"Faith reduces general stress, promotes health-improving behaviours, helped adaptation after trauma, recovery from substance misuse and sexual abuse and maintaining a positive attitude to life," he added.

"A belief that there is 'more to life than this' can help us in times of pressure - we may not feel so trapped by time, money and possessions and we may be able to hold more faith that this time we are in will not last for ever."