North Carolina Halo Effect

The Economic Halo Effect of Rural Sacred Places

Partners and academic collaborator, the University of North Carolina, are embarking upon a two-year economic impact study of 90 rural United Methodist congregations across North Carolina. Funded by The Duke Endowment, this study is intended to empower rural congregations and rural church advocates to better articulate the fact that rural churches strengthen their communities. The Duke Endowment has commissioned other studies that demonstrate that rural churches strengthen their communities, but this is the first that will quantify the impact.

In addition, participating congregations can use results will be used to:

  • Bolster annual stewardship campaigns and larger capital fundraising efforts
  • Communicate the value of a given program (for example, a food pantry) or programmatic emphasis (for example, homelessness)
  • Appeal to civic leaders and community stakeholders that do not speak the language of faith
  • Advocate for congregational interests in the face of threats (for example, municipal tax assessments)

Methodology & Process

Based on an extensive review of available, academically vetted methodologies, the team identified nearly two-dozen quantifiable factors relevant to rural congregations, and assembled a singular methodology. For example, rural congregations spend and hire locally; attract visitors to the area when hosting events such as weddings and funerals; and support in society who are most vulnerable.

Clergy of each of the participating congregations will meet with Partners’ researchers and answer a series of questions pertaining to spending (on operations, the building, benevolence, etc.), events, programming, etc. This takes place on site and takes 3 to 4 hours. No preparation is necessary and follow up is minimal.

Each data point (collected during the aforementioned interview) is multiplied by a coefficient that is sourced from existing, non-Partners research and in many cases, tailored to the location of the congregation. For example, the number of nights spent in the region as the result of each church-hosted wedding or funeral is multiplied by the average amount spent by an overnight visitor to the area as established by the area’s tourism bureau.

For more information about this project, please contact Rachel Hildebrandt at or 215-567-3234, ext. 21.