The heating and electricity costs in a church built for the masses can strain a small denomination's purse strings.
Inspired Partnerships, a nonprofit organization in Chicago, is helping older city churches and synagogues reduce energy expenses so they can put more money toward community-outreach programs.
During 1991-92, the organization sponsored 11 workshops that trained clergy and church administrators from 20 inner-city congregations in property management, building maintenance, and financial planning. One workshop focused on energy conservation. Congregations learned how to calculate and monitor energy use and where to buy low-cost fuel.
Since adopting strategies that include installing energy-efficient light bulbs and time-operated thermostats, as well as upgrading boiler systems in some cases, the 20 churches have collectively saved more than $15,000 over a year's time.
Lakeview Presbyterian Church, which has an annual budget of less than $100,000, whittled $3,000 off its utility bills through low-cost improvements. The congregation reduced electricity use by 21 percent and gas use by 7 percent. The church, which had closed its sanctuary during the winter, now keeps it open year round. The savings on energy expenses helped preserve an immigrant tutoring program.
Inspired Partnerships is conducting additional energy workshops for other Chicago congregations. The group recently won an award for its energy-conservation efforts. The award was granted by the National Center for Appropriate Technology in Butte, Mont., a nonprofit organization working to improve the lives of people in need by promoting solutions in energy, environment, housing, and agriculture.