Church giving declines

PJ staff report

The recession was tough on giving to churches, a new study says.

Americans in 2008 gave less to church, and more to religious organizations other than church, says The State of Church Giving through 2008, by Empty Tomb.

The share of giving per church member that went to ministries beyond the local congregation fell to its lowest point in 2008, the study says.

And local congregations continued to spend more of total contributions from church members on their internal operations, compared to the larger mission of the church.

According to data from denominations that include over 100,000 of the estimated 350,000 congregations in the U.S., per-member giving to churches fell in 2008 from 2007, both in the share of income given and in inflation-adjusted dollars given.

The decline in the share of total contributions from church members that congregations spend on their larger missions continued a long-standing trend, the study says.

In 1968, congregations spent 21 percent of each dollar contributed on their larger mission, compared to 14 cents in 2008.

The study also says denominational leaders “have not mobilized church members to give the few dollars more per member that are needed to stop most global child deaths or to offer all people groups the option of Christianity.”

While church member giving fell in 2008, a recession year that saw 12 months of economic contraction after the peak in December 2007, church member giving does not necessarily decline in a recession, the study says.

From 1968 to 2008, it says, church member giving fell in one of three one-year recessions, and in one of the first years of four multi-year recessions.

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