Study Puts Price on Value of Churches, and It's Huge
Teresa Neumann : Mar 15, 2011
Matthew Petrillo - Voice of America
"A dollar value? I don't know what I would put for that. I owe my life to the church." -Dennis Wright
(Pennsylvania)—In a first of its kind, a new study called "Valuing Urban Congregations" has put a dollar value on churches.
Ram Cnaan, a professor of social policy at the University of Pennsylvania, said the value of a church's impact on society has long been considered "too sacred" to measure. "Everybody thinks of congregations as a place to worship and meet their spiritual needs and go home," he said. "Congregations have a much wider impact on the community."
Said Bob Jaeger, who also worked on the study: All too often when we invest in neighborhoods, the church or synagogue is overlooked. We just assume that it's always going to be there. We don't fully understand what value it has. If a pastor persuades someone to not commit suicide, what is the value of a human life? What's the dollar value, how many millions of dollars?"
As reported in Voice of America, "preventing a suicide is worth about $20,000 while counseling that saves a marriage has a value of $18,000."
And the church's function isn't just from conducting weddings and funerals, or meeting the needs of its parishioners and the community. Jaeger contends churches foster good values and says those efforts produce what he calls a "halo" effect.
"We thought there probably would be some evidence that in a halo of a block or two or more—in a circle around a sacred place—there is probably some impact that is demonstrable," he said. "And what we've learned, in fact, is that much of this impact is local."
Concludes the report, "Cnaan estimates that all of Philadelphia's 2,000 houses of worship bring the city the equivalent of $250 million a year. And that's something everyone can say 'Amen' to."
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