20% of Protestant Christians give somewhere between zip, zero, and nada

And the sum total of church annual campaign stewardship drives that focus on meeting the church’s budget goals rather than increasing the generosity of each person in the congregation?

1 in 5 Protestants give nothing to their local church, according to a post last week by the Presbyterian Outlook.

The post quotes Michael O. Emerson, who co-authored Passing The Plate: Why American Christians Don’t Give Away More Money (a book whose research we like but whose conclusions and proposals we don’t, as we’ve written about in a previous post).

Emerson also notes that roughly 60% of the money churches recieve comes from 5% of American Christians, and that 50% of American Christians account for 1% of the total.

My favorite stat remains the one related to income: American Christians making $25,000 or less a year give a greater percentage of their money away than do any other income group.

Emerson goes on to note that the average Mormon gives nearly 3 times as much as the average Protestant, though Pentecostals are slightly better than the rest of the Protestant bunch.

Anyway, great stats. Wildly sad, of course, but not remotely surprising. After all, when churches’ measurements of success (see? I’m slowly rounding the bend to finish up my Blognum Opus on measurement) focus on total dollars raised rather than an increase in generosity in each individual giving unit (the result of which would logically spill over into an improvement in total dollars raised), why would we expect to see anything different?

What’s disappointing are Emerson’s prescriptions for change:

  • Churches should learn to ask better
  • Churches should provide other media for giving, like ATM machines
  • Churches should do a better job of telling congregation members where their donations went and what they accomplished
  • Churches should help congregation members “give, then live”, that is, give first and live on what’s left

[Editor’s note: Emerson also predicted, “One day man will travel to the moon”.]

Missing from Emerson’s prescriptions?

A core conviction of Transformational Giving (TG), namely TG Principle #9, “Giving is learned, not latent”. It does not arise simply from asking better, putting an ATM machine in the lobby, telling them how we spent their money, or telling them to make their first check every month their check to the church.

Rather, it comes from training people how to give, by leaders giving opportunities designed systematically to grow them, by the grace of God,  from participation in projects to engagement in God’s work to ownership of that work in their sphere of influence.

That doesn’t happen through an inspiring and challenging stewardship sermon. It happes through a one-on-one discipleship process.

“But I can’t disciple everyone,” says The Pastor.

“And you’re not called to,” says The TG Practitioner, quoting 2 Timothy 2:2 to show that biblical discipleship involves us leaders comprehensively training just a few (just like Jesus and Paul did) such that those few comprehensively train just a few more who, because of how we taught them to teach others, train just a few more as well.

Sadly, as we’ll talk about in tomorrow’s post, the Presbyterian Church (USA) is heading in a different direction, responding to Emerson’s statistics by resorting to the oldest (and now most outdated) traditional/transaction tactic in the book to boost denominational giving.

What’s that old saying about insanity being defined as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result?

About Pastor Foley

The Reverend Dr. Eric Foley is CEO and Co-Founder, with his wife Dr. Hyun Sook Foley, of Voice of the Martyrs Korea, supporting the work of persecuted Christians in North Korea and around the world and spreading their discipleship practices worldwide. He is the former International Ambassador for the International Christian Association, the global fellowship of Voice of the Martyrs sister ministries. Pastor Foley is a much sought after speaker, analyst, and project consultant on the North Korean underground church, North Korean defectors, and underground church discipleship. He and Dr. Foley oversee a far-flung staff across Asia that is working to help North Koreans and Christians everywhere grow to fullness in Christ. He earned the Doctor of Management at Case Western Reserve University's Weatherhead School of Management in Cleveland, Ohio.
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1 Response to 20% of Protestant Christians give somewhere between zip, zero, and nada

  1. Pingback: The Cure For Christian Stinginess: Talk More About Ourselves? « Transformational Giving

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