Lookout! Giving to the Church Continues Its Decline
Lookout! Giving to the Church continues its decline with total contributions to churches as a percent of income for U.S. citizens dropped from 3.11% in 1968 to 2.32% in 2011! This is the findings of the new release of “The State of Church Giving through 2011,” by empty tomb, inc. Every year John and Sylvia Ronsvalle write an update on the state of church giving that has become the definitive guide to understanding what is happening with regards to Americans gifts to churches. Their findings should be sobering for any of us in the Church.
Key Findings of the report – Here are a few of the more sobering facts of where giving now stands…
- Total Contributions fell from 3.11% in 1968 to 2.32% in 2011.
- Congregational Finances fell from 2.45% in 1968 to 1.98% in 2011.
- Benevolences feel from 0.66% in 1968 to 0.34% in 2011.
- $.02 of every dollar given to a congregation goes to overseas missions.
- $172 billion additional dollars would have been available in 2011 if church members had tithed instead of giving 2.32%!
“To measure church member giving is to develop a sense of priority that members place on their church involvement.”The State of Church Giving through 2011
Why the decline? Let me share with you my personal observations as to why we are seeing this continual decline.
Decrease in attendance – The State of Church Giving does an excellent job of pointing out that at the same time we have seen a decline in giving we have seen a decline in church attendance. It simply stands to reason that when there are fewer people in the pews there will be less money in the plate.
Secularization of society – You only have to turn on the TV, listen to the radio or go to the movies to clearly see that our mores and values have changed. The Church is in danger of becoming irrelevant to a vast majority of our nation unless we act quickly.
Change in demographics – The most generous of generations to the church, The Builders, has almost completely exited the stage. Even Baby Boomers who now give the most of any generation is moving into retirement thus further weakening the outlook of reversing this decline. It remains to be seen if the Gen X and Millennials will step up to fill the void. Their absence from the pews does not bode well.
Failure to keep and connect with the next generation – As stated above, the Church is struggling to keep and attract the next generations. Already they have and are leaving in droves. This weighs upon any ability to reverse the decline in giving.
Unwillingness to use technology – We are in the midst of a technological revolution when it comes to commerce. Americans are more increasingly relying upon electronic means to do all their commerce including making charitable gifts. Yet the Church on the whole is lagging behind in this regard. Thus when we need to be making it easy for people to give we are actually making it harder.
We have put all our eggs in one basket – Churches depend almost exclusively on the offering plate to generate funds. As stated above with our society becoming more cashless and checkless our offering plates have become nearly antiquated. If the Sunday morning offering is the only time and way people can give then it stands to reason giving will continue to decline.
The real question is what does this mean for your church? First, it should wake you and your leaders up. If the statistics listed above don’t do that consider the projections are that giving in the future will hit around 1%. If you don’t do something your church could be out of cash sooner than you think.
Secondly, I think it is important to understand that your church can avoid a giving slump. However you have to have an effective stewardship plan and you have to work your plan.
Finally, the Church, your church, needs to get back to making disciples not simply attracting a crowd. Too many churches in an attempt to attract seekers have de-valued giving. I am all for great plans and great platforms, i.e. online giving, etc. Yet the true need and answer for the Church is to return to the basics.
Mark Brooks- The Stewardship Coach
Founder and President, The Charis Group and Charis Giving Solutions