The Church of England in Sussex is due to run out of cash reserves by the end of next year.
Parishioners are being urged to dig deeper into their pockets to help pull the Diocese of Chichester out of the red.
Falling income from parishes has forced the organisation, which is responsible for all Anglican churches in Sussex, to spend its savings.
It is expected to lose £700,000 in 2012 and £500,000 in 2013, using up the last of its reserves.
The diocese has brought in a raft of cost-saving measures, including stopping most new appointments, which means that departing vicars will not always be replaced.
Instead, vicars from other churches as well as retired clergyman and lay readers are being drafted in to hold services.
The church’s current cash shortage is in part down to the global financial crisis which has significantly damaged its investments.
A fund of about £1.5million dropped by £350,000 in 2011.
Falling attendance and the current economic situation have also hit the collection plate with payments made by deaneries and parishes to the diocese down £220,000 on the pledged amount of £13.2 million for 2011.
The diocese has access to other funds which it could use in an emergency but these would have to be repaid at a later date.
Merging parishes is one way the diocese has approached cutting costs with ten parish mergers in Sussex over the last year including the merging of five into one in Crawley.
The Reverend Stan Tomalin, rural dean of Dallington Deanery, which covers more than 20 churches between Heathfield and Robertsbridge, has written to his parishes asking them to raise more money.
He said the church’s main costs were its ministers and church maintenance, and the dioceses had very little room to find extra savings.
Rev Tomalin also said it would be the “very worst case scenario” if churches closed, adding that people were not thinking in those terms yet.
The church sold two churches in the last 12 months in Chailey and Hurstpierpoint.
He added: “Regular members of churches or visitors who look to the church at special occasions if they want the church to remain as it is, they might have to give a little bit more.
“What people are giving churches might not have changed in five or ten years |ago.
“It’s a long standing issue the church has had historic reserves that it has been able to rely on to pay for its running costs.
“It’s not got to the stage that these reserves have completely depleted but we can no longer rely on them to help us as much as we once could.
“The church has a lot of investment that because of the current financial situation are not performing as well, these investments have crashed through the floor.”
A diocese spokesman said: “In common with every organisation in these recessionary times, especially those dependent on voluntary income, the diocese is examining its financial position rigorously as a matter of good housekeeping, recognising the financial challenges ahead and that it has to keep a close eye on income and expenditure.”
- In 2011, the total deficit of the diocese was £55,971.
- In 2012, the church is expected to lose £700,000, and in 2013 it is predicted to lose £500,000.
- The diocese saw a 3% increase on insurance premiums due to a rise in metal thefts.
- The diocese is part of the parish giving scheme which allows churches to receive gift aid on donations.
- Churches are also encouraged to be part of a joint buying scheme to improve bargaining powers and take advantage of economies of scale.