The recession is dipping into church collection plates.

A growing number of Protestant congregations have seen their Sunday collections drop this year, according to a survey by LifeWay Research on the economic health of churches. Pastors blame high unemployment and a drop-off in giving by members.

To make ends meet, churches have laid off staff and frozen salaries, put off major capital projects and cut back on programs. At the same time, more of their congregation members and neighbors are asking for help with basic needs like paying the rent and buying groceries, the study found.

About half of Americans identify themselves as Protestant, according to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

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