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:

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:

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.


Unknown 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.

J. B. Hood said...

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

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

will 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.

Scot McKnight said...

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

Sharad Yadav 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.

David A. Croteau 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.

joyful girl 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....