Thursday, August 11, 2005

Money and the Church

A while back my friend Dr. Ken Carter, pastor of Providence UMC in Charlotte sent me these staggering statistics. Here they are for your pondering.



Fact # 1: In 1916, Protestants were giving 2.9% of their incomes to their churches. In 1933, in the midst of the Great Depression, it was 3.2%. In 1955 just after affluence began spreading through our culture, it was still 3.2%. By 2002, when Americans were over 480% richer, after taxes and inflation, than in the Great Depression, Protestants were giving 2.6% of their incomes to their churches. Source: www.emptytomb.org.

Fact # 2: If Americans who identify with the historically Christian church increased their giving to an average of 10% of income, there could be an additional $86 billion dollars available for overseas missions each year. One source estimates that $70-$80 billion would impact the worst of world poverty and $5 billion could end most of the 11 million under-5, global, annual child deaths. Also, $7 billion would be sufficient for global primary education for all children. There could also be $30.9 billion more a year for domestic outreach. Source: www.emptytomb.org

Fact # 3: Americans spend more money on gambling than groceries. Source: Crown Ministries.

Fact #4 : One in six children in the U.S. live in poverty, compared to one in twelve in Great Britain and one in twenty in Germany. Source: Jim Wallis, Sojourners.

Fact# 5: Americans spend, as a group, $2. 5 billion per year for world missions, $2. 5 billion per year for chewing gum,$ 8 billion per year for movies, $22 billion per year for hunting, $34 million per year for state lotteries. Source: John and Sylvia Ronsvalle, Behind the Stained Glass Window.

Fact #6: Eight of ten families spend more than they make. Source: Family Business Centre, Inc.

Fact #7: As a national average, one third to one half of a church’s membership supports the congregation financially. Source: Christian Missionary Alliance.

13 comments:

James Petticrew said...

I have to say that the problem must be worse in the UK, one church of Scotland pastor published the fact that based on the total membership of his church (a lot don't attend) the average giving was 50 pence a month! I worked out in my last church that if the whole congregation had been on the basis state pension (65 pounds a week) and tithed we would have been significantly better off as a church. Of course the congregation wasn't all pensioners, many were professional people with very good salaries. My impression is that in general American Christians are more generous, but then again our giving isn't tax deductable

ben said...

James, I think this is a problem that transcends cultural lines. We American Christians are just as ungenerous as anyone else.

Thanks for these numbers Dr. Ben. I am going to make sure my church people see them.

James Petticrew said...

I'm on the Beeson program I am very grateful that American's are generous people!

J. B. Hood said...

The organization I work has a website which contains a wealth of similar information. This page may be of interest:

http://www.generousgiving.org/page.asp?sec=4&page=504

It has similar stats (complete with footnotes) regarding American Christians and giving.

will shurtliff said...

I wonder if these numbers indicate that our Christian leadership in this country has failed to teach complete trust in God. It is hard to say, "I am can barely pay my bills right now but I am going to give ten percent or more up front and trust God to make things work out from there." But that is exactly what people need to do to be free from the power the material things (such as the mortgage, car etc).

John said...

Do you of Wallis' source for the statistic that 1 in 6 US children live in poverty, but 1 in 12 British and German children live in poverty?

Considering Germany's staggering unemployment, I find this statistic a little hard to believe. Are they using the same definition of 'poverty'?

----

Will's right. Christian leadership has failed to teach a strong enough faith to tithe. Shame on us.

James Petticrew said...

As some one just new in the States I have had some first impressions. First, health care was a shock, a big shock. My perception is that being healthy means to an extent being wealthy. I suspect that if you are "middle" class here in the States you are better off but if you are a bit poorer things are much more difficult and would be easier in the UK. Our welfare state has lots of problems but I think on balance I am happier with it than the US system as it creates a safety net for the poorest and most vulnerable in society and that's pretty important for me as a Christian. I think a society should be judged by how it treats its weakest members.
I also wonder if levels of debt here are higher. There seems to be more pressure to have the latest car, the latest whatever.

Scot McKnight said...

Ben,
Sider's new book, The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience, has numbers like this, too. And he provides a very helpful, if convicting, discussion.

TheBlueRaja said...

Thanks so much for those statistics - it's something that's easy to glibly criticize and very difficult to personalize. Our own family has been working through the implications of Jesus' call to discipleship in the area of money, and its a challenge to simply climb out of the guilt for long enough to even attempt making changes - it's paralyzing. Some helpful guardrails for working through the personal implications for me have been 1) the responsibility to take care of needs in my local fellowship and community 2) the need to make financial sacrifices to accomplish my life's specifc ministry goals and purposes (hopefully those related to the ministry of your local church), not just for guilt-relief. 3) realizing that living for kingdom priorities, accomplishing kingdom goals and embodying kingdom living in this area (such as relief for the poor, those weighed down in debt, etc) requires a community effort, not simply an individual pulling himself up by his bootstraps

It'd be interesting to hear how others have sought to heed Jesus' call in this matter.

Kenny Tomlin said...

First, thank you so much for blogging. I've found your books extremely profitable and plan to visit this blog often.

Second, thank you for addressing issues of poverty and christian stewardship. I recognize that the issues that cause poverty and the corresponding solutions are vast and complicated and will require more than just giving money. But from a Christian perspective, it ought to at least include giving money.

I recently created a website and an idea called P.A.I.D. (Poverty Alleviation & Identification Day) to encourage a sacrificial, systematic way to give toward alleviating poverty. You can review the idea online at www.ipaid.org.

dacroteau said...

I think part of the giving problem IS the teaching on giving ten percent. The rich get away with giving very little and the poor are giving beyond a level they should.

joe said...

Maybe some giving is down because
some folks just can't buy into a new parking lot campaign or a new gizmo for the already overly adorned building.

Interesting that while many churches are cutting back on ministry portions of their budgets, retirement annuity payments continue to be paid and satff salaries are at an all time high.

Joy said...

i would disagree ben,
i think that the 'western' church is ungenerous but in countries where the church is thriving, so is generosity

Jesus was right - it's hard for rich people to give up their addiction and dependency....