Sacred Places Summer 2022 - Page 14


The Halo


of Rural Churches in North Carolina

by Rachel Hildebrandt ,
Director , National Fund for Sacred Places , and Bob Jaeger , President Partners for Sacred Places
Trinity United Methodist Church , Louisburg , North Carolina

Partners for Sacred Places ( Partners ) has known for over a decade that the value of sacred places goes beyond just the beauty of their architecture or the role they play in the life of their memberships . Thanks to two rounds of previous research by Partners on the Economic Halo Effect of churches and synagogues , the outsized civic value of congregations and sacred places — i . e ., the economic value they bring to the larger community — has been demonstrated again and again .

Until now , however , that research was focused on urban sacred places . Partners has suspected that small town and rural churches had an equally important story to tell of civic value and community contribution , and now Partners can begin to affirm that story .
In partnership with the Duke Endowment and UNC Charlotte Urban Institute , Partners conducted a study to better understand the economic impact of rural churches , specifically examining the impact of United Methodist Church ( UMC ) congregations in North Carolina ’ s small towns and rural areas . The study examined who benefits from the presence of these congregations and what contributions these churches make to the lifeblood of their communities as conveners , trusted partners , and service providers .
A volunteer helps a young reader through United We Read , a literacy initiative between seven churches , hosted at Prospect United Methodist Church in East Bend . On average , congregations contribute $ 165,208 in educational benefits and $ 116,764 in other individual and family impacts each year . The Rev . Dr . Lauren Anderson