updated 12/31/2009 7:24:09 AM ET 2009-12-31T12:24:09

Evangelical pastor Rick Warren appealed to parishioners at his California megachurch Wednesday to help fill a $900,000 deficit by the first of the year.

Warren made the appeal in a letter posted on the Saddleback Church Web site. It begins "Dear Saddleback Family, THIS IS AN URGENT LETTER."

"With 10 percent of our church family out of work due to the recession, our expenses in caring for our community in 2009 rose dramatically while our income stagnated," the letter reads.

Still, Warren said the church managed to stay within its budget, but "the bottom dropped out" when Christmas donations dropped. "On the last weekend of 2009, our total offerings were less than half of what we normally receive — leaving us $900,000 in the red for the year," the letter reads.

"It's basically having to do more with less," church spokesman A. Larry Ross said. "The seasonal Christmas offering was down significantly and, commensurately, the need for services the church is expected to provide is up," Ross said.

Warren's appeal presents an opportunity for those who haven't been hit by the recession to step up and help, Ross said.

The letter details some of the church's accomplishments in 2009 and where the donations would be used, including the church's food pantry, homeless ministry, counseling and support groups. It then lists three ways parishioners can make their donations.

Warren was named the top newsmaker of the year by the Religion Newswriters Association. He gained attention with his invocation at the inauguration of President Barack Obama and comments in the aftermath of California's Proposition 8, which overturned gay marriage. Warren also gained attention for his work in Africa involving AIDS relief and other humanitarian activities.

Warren is the author of numerous books, including the best-selling "The Purpose Driven Life."

He founded Saddleback Church in 1980 in Lake Forest, southeast of Los Angeles.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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