The call from the pastor was not that unusual.
Indeed, it was a part of a pattern we’ve observed at Church Answers.
“Hey Thom,” the pastor asked, “Are you seeing anything about church giving declining? We thought it was a temporary pause at our church, but giving is consistently down about five percent.”
While we don’t have sufficient data to declare a definitive trend, we see reasons to urge church leaders to exercise caution before planning major budget increases in the months ahead. Here are five of those reasons:
- Economic uncertainty. Since the economic experts are not in agreement about the future of the economy, I certainly am not smart enough to make predictions. At the very least, the future state of the economy is uncertain. As a key indicator, inflation, though it has lowered from its peak, is still at a rate that could hold back economic growth.
- Declining attendance. There is a direct correlation between attendance and giving. Church attendance is significantly lower than pre-pandemic levels . If the trend continues, giving will follow suit.
- Disappearing liquidity. In order to counter the severe financial effects of the pandemic, the government injected a lot of liquidity through payments to individuals and businesses. These subsidies are nearly exhausted, and the disposable income of church members has correspondingly diminished.
- Polarization in churches. Church unity is one of the most important factors in the health of a church. And we know for certain that unity affects the giving of a church. A unified church is a church with a purpose. And a church with a purpose attracts greater generosity. Regrettably, many churches are experiencing internal division, which discourages generosity.
- Facility surprises. Many churches have deferred maintenance issues, and many church leaders are surprised when the church is hit with a major facility cost. Numbers of congregations are in older buildings. Unfortunately, most of those congregations have not kept up with the maintenance needs of the facilities. The expense for major capital needs such as new roofs or HVAC systems is typically higher than expected. One former member of a church recently told me his church had to close its doors because they did not have the funds to make basic upgrades and repairs.
One action a church can take right now is to prepare a contingency budget. For example, consider asking, “What changes would we make if we knew church giving would come in at five percent under the budgeted receipts?” Thinking through these scenarios in advance will help to ensure preparedness.
What are you seeing in your church’s giving levels? We would love to hear from you.
Posted on July 3, 2023
With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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