Show us the money

It seems as though more and more megachurches — those churches, usually Protestant, with congregations of 1,500 or more — are becoming business-minded these days.

This is according to a recent New York Times article that reported how an increasing number of large churches across America have become catalysts for economic development in their local cities, defying the age-old notion that churches don’t contribute financially to cities because they don’t pay taxes.

This got me thinking about Faith Fellowship Church, a megachurch here in San Leandro that has been locked in a battle with the city to move into an industrial-zoned building. The city blocked the church from moving into the building for several reasons — the main reason being that city officials want to preserve San Leandro’s future tax base.

The church contends that it fully contributes to the city’s economy because its members shop at surrounding businesses after services. Faith Fellowship also maintains that the church saves the city money by providing free marriage counseling and feeding the hungry, for example.

But that hasn’t been enough to convince the city that allowing the church to move into an industrial area would benefit San Leandro’s economy.

I know that a number of megachurches in the Bay Area own residential properties and other types of businesses (i.e. Glad Tidings in Hayward, Allen Temple in Oakland), and that they seem to be getting along just fine with their cities when it comes to expanding their churches.

What would have happened if Faith Fellowship gave San Leandro an incentive by offering part of the industrial property it was eyeing for profit? Or perhaps invested in some other business venture that could provide the city with some tax money?