I hate polls that purportedly tell us what the state of giving to the church is. Not to mention any names, the last time I did that the leader of one of the polls got upset with me, but they are very unreliable.
There are many reasons I don’t like polls about giving to the church. First, polls are almost always based upon conjecture not facts. Secondly, polls are driven by emotions. Thirdly I find that they often ask the wrong person about giving, the pastor, when most pastors do not have a clear handle on giving. Finally, the timing of the polls are always suspect. For instance one poll a few years ago asked how giving in that year would be months before the end of the year. If you know anything about church giving you know that the fourth quarter brings in the most money. Incredibly one national poll ended its sampling six weeks before the end of the year!
The best data on church giving is produced by empty tomb, inc. Last week I received their latest report on giving entitled, “The State of Church Giving Through 2010.” You might think that is a bit late but empty tomb, inc. takes time to sort through mountains of data for their findings. Data is a better indicator than polling a church leader and asking him or her what they think. Think is never a good planning tool. Facts are what we need.
Here are some of the key facts as found in their report…
- The proportion of income contributed to the church, as represented in Total Contributions, decreased from 3.11% to 2.40% in 2010, a decline of 23% from the 1968 base.
- Overall, giving to Congregational Finances as a present of income decreased from 2.45% in 1968 to 2.06%, a decline of 16%.
- If the same proportion of income had been given in 2010 as in 1968, aggregate Total Contributions would have been $29.2 billion rather than the actual amount given of $22.9 billion.
- That is a difference of $6.3 billion, or an increase of 28%.
- Personal incomes increased 130% from 1968 to 2010 while the percentage given to the church declined.
- Giving during The Great Depression stayed above 3%!
- If members of historically Christian churches had chosen to give 10% of their incomes instead of 2.4% in 2010 their would have been an additional $165 billion available to the Church.
So Americans give on average 2.4% of their disposable income to the church. Americans spend 5.3% of their incomes eating out!
What does this mean for your church? It means we are facing an uphill battle. Ours is an increasingly secular society. The more secular it gets the more giving will decline. However you can reverse this trend in your church. Scores of churches are seeing increases in giving. You can too. Simply because the church across town is seeing a decline does not mean yours will too.
Wake up and do something! Churches that see their giving increase don’t just sit back and wring their hands about the secularization of society. They work to fight the trend. They have a plan and they work their plan. What is your plan? If you do nothing you too will see a decline in giving. At some point you will be forced to curtail missions and ministries. At some point you will have to cut salaries and lay off staff. Don’t wait for that to happen to you. Work now to avoid the crisis.
Giving is declining but it does not have to decline in your church. What are you doing now to make sure that your dreams and visions are fully funded?
Mark Brooks- The Stewardship Coach
Founder and President, The Charis Group and Charis Giving Solutions