A bigger share of churches in the U.S. saw giving grow in 2011 after plunging in the wake of the economic collapse in 2008, while a smaller share saw giving decline, with bigger churches more likely to see increases, a new survey says.
Fifty-one percent of over 1,360 congregations responding to an online survey saw giving increases, up from 43 percent in 2010 and 36 percent in 2009, while only 32 percent saw declines, down from 39 percent in 2010 and 38 percent in 2009, says the 4th-annual State of the Plate survey.
Over 70 percent of mega-churches, or those with over 2,000 people in weekend attendance, saw giving grow, compared to only 39 percent of churches with fewer than 100 people in weekend attendance, says the survey, a collaborative research project of Maximum Generosity ministry, Christianity Today, and the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, or ECFA.
Among churches that saw increases, 50 percent said it mainly was the result of higher attendance, while 42 percent said it was because people gave more after their church conducted teaching initiatives on finance and generosity.
Nearly 55 percent of churches in the region that includes Missouri, Montana, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Kansas and Nebraska saw giving grow, while 38 percent of churches in the region that includes California, Oregon, Washington State, Alaska and Hawaii reported declines in giving, marking the third time in four years those states saw decreases.
Still, 45 percent of churches in Pacific Coast states saw giving grow, while 17 percent reported giving was flat.
Among churches with more giving, 40.3 percent are using the extra funds for staff pay raises, 36.5 percent are paying for missions, 35.3 percent for church buildings, and 31.1 percent for benevolence.
Churches also are shifting from traditional “envelope packets” to electronic giving, with 41 percent of churches, for example, using online giving and 7 percent using cell-phone giving.
The survey also found a lot of churches using a range of practices and procedures to ensure financial transparency and accountability.
Among churches surveyed, 92 percent make their financial statements available to members on request, and 89 percent provide copies of their annual budget to their congregation or make them available on request, while 86 percent of church boards consist of five or more people, with at least three of them not a pastor or staff member, or related to either.