Rumor has it that Evangelical Christians give about 2% of their income.
I tend to be a little skeptical about statistics because they are too easy to manipulate and say what you want them to say.
However, I think we can all confidently say the giving stats (as defined by giving to a local church) in North America are pretty pathetic compared to our incomes.
And anytime there is bad news, we expect there to be some pointing of fingers.
So, let me be the first to point the finger. (Don’t worry, I’ll judge everyone by making sure we’re all to blame!)
Churches Point the Fingers at Members
Typically, here’s what happens around this time of year (budget time for many churches).
Problem: The leadership recognizes that the membership is giving less than they should.
Traditional Solution: They ask one of the ministers to do a sermon about the importance of giving.
The Unaddressed Question: Why is it that members are giving less?
- Do they need help learning how to manage their money? It’s is a pragmatic or a spiritual issue?
- Is there something wrong with the way the leadership is handling the money that needs to be addressed?
- Have members been properly educated about the reason for giving?
- Will there be a conflict of interest if someone paid by the church encourages those in the church to give more?
Members Point the Finger at Churches
Problem: Members see how church funds are being spent / allocated, and they don’t always agree.
Traditional Solution: Members give less and less to their local church and find other more ‘meaningful’ ways to use their money.
The Unaddressed Question: Why is it that churches are spending our money the way they are?
- Do church members need to be sitting down with leadership for some meaningful discussion on how church budget should be allocated?
- Is there something wrong with our hearts when we want to control the final destination of every dollar instead of entrusting that decision to others?
- Are we properly acknowledging the fact that church mission and church administration are legitimate uses for church funds?
The Way Forward
I think this giving drought (as measured by members giving to churches) will only continue to worsen.
Younger generations of Christians want their money to ‘count’. Often times, this involves social justice. Emerging generations have different values than the builder generation. One generation saw church expansion as a legitimate means to honor God. There is a younger generation that wants to see less spent on ‘upkeep’ and ‘administration’ and more spent on ‘actually helping people’.
Currently, it is the building generation that still gives the majority of church funds. Younger generations are taking their toys with them and playing in another sand pit.
I think church leaders and church members need to be having serious discussions about the issue of giving. This is especially true when members are discovering ‘better’ things to do with their money. The discussion must involve the different generations represented within the church. I can almost promise you they will think the ‘most important thing to do with money’ is vastly different.
I think members need to be speaking more (by using words, not withdrawing funds), and leaders need to be listening.
Do you give all of your money to the local church? Does how your church spends money impact how much you give? What proactive things can be done to help encourage members to believe in the financial mission of the church? Do you know churches that do this well?