AT PRIME OUTLETS IN Huntley, Illinois, a former Mikasa fine china store will soon become the home of Christian Life Church.

"This provided an opportunity, from moving from being kind of a homeless church, if you will, to find a home," said Pastor Daryl Merrill, whose church had been renting space weekly at a local hotel as it started an offshoot of the main congregation based in Mount Prospect, Illinois.

The tough economy may have shuttered some retail stores, but the vacant spaces aren't necessarily sitting empty: Some are becoming new locations for worship. Churches have considered former big-box sites, closed auto dealerships, and mall locations, all of which have room for their congregants to worship and places for them to park.

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