Five Reasons Your Church’s Giving May Have Dropped Significantly This Year

November 4, 2019

By Thom S. Rainer

“It was like the bottom fell out.”

The comment came from a pastor in a micro consultation I hosted. He was both concerned and perplexed. He could not understand why the decline was taking place, and why it was so sudden.

In a great discussion at Church Answers, a number of pastors were discussing this same phenomenon. Their insights were varied and helpful.

What are some possible reasons church giving can take a seemingly dramatic turn downward? As we work with churches, we often see these five reasons.

  1. The church’s membership and attendance mix changed during the year. The common scenario is the loss of a few high-giving families replaced by newer lower-giving families. In these cases, leadership is often caught off guard because there was no corresponding attendance decline.
  2. The movement to digital giving has been too slow. If church leaders are not emphasizing digital giving options, there will likely come a day where giving begins to drop precipitously. Non-digital givers tend to give when they are physically present at a worship service. They often skip giving when they are not present. Digital givers are more likely to schedule their gifts on a regular schedule.
  3. There is a quiet protest movement in the church. I don’t like it when church members hold back giving when something does not go their way. Frankly, I would rather they go to another church they can support regularly. But financial protests are sadly common. I recently spoke to one pastor who discovered this ugly reality when the church introduced projection screens in the worship center. I am not kidding.
  4. There is not sufficient emphasis on encouraging people to be a part of a group. I am always amazed when I learn the giving habits of church members who are in a group versus those who are not. Those in groups often give three to five times more per capita. If the church loses its emphasis on groups even for a short season, giving can begin to suffer quickly.
  5. There is no clear vision. As a rule, Gen Xers and Millennials give to a mission and a vision rather than an institution. If a compelling vision is not clear, or if there are many competing visions and emphases, these younger adults may shift their giving elsewhere.

 If your church has seen a significant drop in giving this year, I encourage you to have a conversation with the person who sees the giving records. While he or she may not provide names and giving amounts, that person usually knows what is taking place. But they often don’t tell unless they are asked.

Declining giving is not always a gradual phenomenon. It can often be sudden and dramatic.

You need to learn what is taking place sooner rather than later.

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42 Comments

  • Graham Huxtable says on

    Four comments from a South African minister:
    1. An aging congregation definitely has affected our giving.
    2. A colleague of mine has reminded me that the moment I give my money to the church it is no longer mine! I cannot regulate how the money is spent just as much as I cannot tell you how to wear a shirt after I have given it to you.
    3. Inner city churches, like mine, as suffering because people have moved from the city centre into the suburbs and city centres are viewed as dangerous and unsafe.
    4. I do not want to know what my members give because that might affect how I treat them. Do I listen to what they say because they give more? If I knew, it might.

  • Elizabeth Mora says on

    Thom, I agree with all you said. I also an wondering how big an impact the change in the tax code is making. Are you aware if anyone has done a survey?

  • I know of one small church struggling financially as people intentionally withhold funding. These folks have been the heart and life of this church for years. (Let us not go into agism. They are not all old. Leaders as young as mid teens on up, children as members.) But their denomination changed theology significantly and insisted on a corresponding change in both worship and how church life is done. These folks disagree on all 3 points. Why should they leave and go elsewhere? They, under God’s leadership, built this church. Why should they walk away and just hand it over to someone else? So they attend. They vote their beliefs even though they are overruled. But funding is cut off. Will they be tossed out? Could happen but all they lose then is one very old building in need of repair. The very vital congregation (very small town) would simply go together elsewhere and start over. The entire congregation. Will the denom pull out and give them the building? Maybe. Time will tell.

    Sadly, once in a blue moon leadership just doesn’t mesh with followership. Once in a blue moon leadership doesn’t want to hear any ideas but their own.

    My prayer is their denom and young leader will listen and just them “go elsewhere” but who knows?

    I am very grateful to be in a healthy denom and healthy church with excellent leadership. Must be very painful to be in their shoes.

    • I don’t know the church you’re talking about, and I can’t look into anyone’s heart, but I can tell you what I would do. If a church is compromising the Word of God, I would definitely go somewhere else. Many things in a church are negotiable, but the Word of God is not.

  • Travis Southern says on

    In our case, attendance has stayed fairly steady around 400. But in the last two years I’ve done 20 funerals. This has impacted giving significantly as a generous generation is passing away.

  • Guy in the pew says on

    People give less because of the consumer driven approach adopted by so many churches. As consumers people are not going to pay for what they perceive as free. When a church offers consumer based programs and events free of charge why put money in the plate?

  • Craig Giddens says on

    People are becoming hesitant to give for multi-million dollar facilities especially when churches tend away from sound doctrinal teaching and preaching.

    • So why don’t they give some of their money and energy to small, struggling churches who could really use their help?

      • Craig Giddens says on

        They probably would if they were members of a small church. The question is, is the small church struggling because the members aren’t giving enough or the giving is small because of the small membership?

      • Maybe they could join a smaller church and help it grow?

      • Craig Giddens says on

        That may be a trend in the future.

      • How about making it a trend now? Many of these churches have aging congregations and are trying to minister to the best of their ability. They would love to have some younger people come in and help them out, yet all I hear from the younger folks are more excuses about why they can’t do it.

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