Supercheap, few-questions-asked loans were a temptation even churches could not resist, but now they are paying for their sins as the debt crisis enters the house of God.The decline in religious construction ended post-Internet bubble and never re-emerged with the residential / commercial boom and subsequent collapse.
Long considered among the safest of borrowers, churches gambled on real estate at a time when credit copiously flowed and lenders were startlingly lax.
But places of worship have since been battered by the economic downturn. Donations have dipped, investment returns have plunged and bank credit is still hard to come by.
"You build it and they will come. It really was true through the years," said Brad Hampton, executive pastor at the Faith Center of Rockford, Illinois. "They like newness," he says of younger churchgoers.