By: Sarah Snyder
While retail stores and restaurants are seeing fewer visitors, many of our local churches are seeing a huge spike in numbers. The oilfield slowdown has put many West Texans back in the pews, and church leaders say things have never been better.
Pastors all over our area are saying the growth has been phenomenal. Every week they're seeing more faces in the crowd than ever. Most of them attribute that growth to a shakey economy. An economic climate that has many West Texans searching for an answer.
"We're just living in a world right now where there seems to be no hope, there seems to be a lot of despair, there seems to be a lot of uncertainty," Pastor Don Caywood, with the Odessa Christian Faith Center said.
And on Sunday morning, that uncertainty means the seats are full.
"There's been a 10-15% increase since the economic downturn began," Pastor Caywood said.
The Odessa Christian Faith Center is now averaging about 1,500 people each week, a number that hasn't stopped rising.
"Unfortunately, when times are good and there's an abundance, a lot of people don't put much stock in God," Pastor Caywood said. "But when times are bad and there's a downturn, people turn to God."
Pastor Caywood says right now they're holding two services each Sunday, and may even add a third. They've also purchased the land next door where they'll soon build a 2,000 seat auditorium.
"I think in the next 2-3 years, you're going to see churches all over America start growing," he said.
The Catholic Churches of South Odessa are so busy, they're looking at future expansion plans.
"Building one new Church to take care of St. Joseph's, St. Martins, and St. Anthony's," Father Joseph Uecker, C.PP.S. said.
And speaking of St. Anthony's, it's overflowing.
"People are hanging from the rafters!" Father Uecker said. "Sometimes they can't even close the door back there. There's that many."
Those rising numbers leave church leaders wondering why they've come.
"God is using the oil business to bring about whatever God is after," Father Uecker said. "If that means, when things go down, they come back to ask for God's blessing, I don't know. When they're up, thanking God for the blessing, I don't know."
"They're looking for something that's real, that's practical, but yet something that fills a void in their hearts and in their lives," Pastor Caywood said.
St. Joseph's tells us the economic slowdown hasn't impacted giving. The offering plates are heavier than ever. Two weeks ago they recorded the highest collection in the Church's 55 year history.