Religious News Service summarizes (via The Lead):
A new report from Empty Tomb Inc., an Illinois-based Christian research organization, contains an analysis that found from 2007 to 2008, Protestant churches saw a decrease of $20.02 in per-member annual charitable gifts.Meanwhile, Empty Tomb’s analysis of federal data found that annual average contributions to the category of “church, religious organizations,” which includes charities like World Vision and Salvation Army, increased by $41.59.
One reason? Churches spend more money on congregational finances and less on missions beyond the church walls, which is unappealing to people who want to support specific causes with a tangible, visible benefit.
Other highlights of the study noted by MLive:
Among the findings, based on data from about one-third of U.S. churches:
- Giving to churches declined to 2.4 percent of a donor’s income, lower than during the first years of the Great Depression; an additional $172 billion could be available if church members tithed 10 percent.
- Church giving spent on “benevolence” including global missions and social services slipped to 0.35 percent of income, the lowest in the study’s 40-year sample. Giving for “congregational finances” including staff salaries and building maintenance was at 2 percent, roughly steady for the previous 20 years.
- While charitable giving nationwide fell 10.6 percent from 2007 to 2008, donations to “church, religious organizations” increased 6.5 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Best quote comes from Sylvia Ronsvalle via The Lead:
Ronsvalle called the findings “unintended side effects of the ‘seeker’ mentality” that creates a consumer mindset within U.S. churches, one that says “‘We’re here to serve you,’ not ‘We’re here to transform you into somebody who serves others.’”
You know that I am the first to note that churches are no mere victims in this predicament, but I am beyond disappointed that none of the commentators, Ronsvalles included, take nonprofits to task for their co-starring role in this tragedy. Surprisingly, nonprofits are uniformly portrayed as heroes and paragons of responsibility and impact in these pieces.
We’ll change that in our next post.