Thinking Out Loud

April 18, 2013

The Difference Churches Make to Cities

Canadian Christian TV host Lorna Dueck writes in The Globe and Mail newspaper:

Lorna DueckThe good news:

Benefits of belief in the supernatural face the logic of urban planning this week. Toronto’s bylaw harmonization hearings will decide what to do with the mystery of how places of worship benefit the common good and whether they should be given special consideration in the city’s zoning plan. The argument in their favour: the “halo effect,” a discovery that calculates measurable benefits that researchers find when communities gather for sacred and public purposes combined…

…So what’s the halo effect? It’s a term coined by secular researchers at the University of Pennsylvania who questioned how to put a price tag on the investment that local congregations generate for the public good. They found that 12 Philadelphia congregations contributed $52-million in annual economic value to the city. More consumers put money directly into the economy, buying goods and services locally as weddings and funerals made the cash registers ring. Education and social services were part of the payoff, with programs for children, parents and the elderly.

The bad news:

But if you’re a neighbour tired of the comings and goings of a faith-run daycare or basketball nets in your laneway or worship services that sprawl parking around every curb, things aren’t quite so angelic. If you’re a municipality trying to pay for roads, consider the irritant of religious organizations buying land in light industrial zones, forever being exempt from taxes.

continue reading here… 

Read more of Lorna regularly at her blog.



  1. Awesome article Lorna. Unfortunately I am afraid that without Divine intervention and the concerted prayers of the churches, the almighty dollar will be the motivation for city councils such as Toronto. But there is also another side to this story. Lorna mentions the host of empty warehouses and storefronts that litter our cities. But what about the host of huge , older church buildings that go on unused from Sunday 12:01p.m. To Saturday? If Toronto moves ahead with is insane plan, could the churches not share space with one another?

    Comment by Ralph juthman — April 18, 2013 @ 7:58 am

    • That’s part of the point David Murrow is making in the article here on Apr. 16, and what in fact Michael Frost did. In Frost’s case, the older congregation ceded the building to the younger one; the pews were stripped out and the building reformatted as something called The Lounge. That’s transitioning in the extreme.

      We have a case like this right now where I live. The congregation has dwindled to 30. If a next-gen church planter presented them with a proposal would they listen to it? Not sure.

      Also found this helpful yesterday:

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — April 18, 2013 @ 9:31 am

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