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Churches Struggle to Keep Giving Up

The Philanthropy Roundtable, an online philanthropy magazine, reported that the single largest category of giving is religious. But, it stated, religious giving is down, especially among Christians.

Depending on church size, growth, congregational makeup, how fiscally conservative the budget is and how many programs the church has taken on, churches either make or break their budgets.

Some churches with much smaller budgets are forging ahead despite the year’s showing, according to the Greenville News.

Even though Victor Baptist Church in Greer, S.C., saw 2002 collections fall short, the new pastor, Ken Vickery, said the 2003 budget is $7,000 to $9,000 above last year’s $303,000.

Vickery told the News that in dealing with a church rather than a business, “the faith factor comes in. Statistics show about 25 percent of the folks support 80 percent of your budget. Basically, it’s not trying to get the core people to give more; it’s trying to help the other folks have faith that what they’re giving to—which is ultimately the Lord—is going to pay off for them.”

According to Empty Tomb Inc., a Christian financial research group, church giving as a portion of income hit an all-time low in 2000.

“People are concerned about keeping the lights on and the staff paid at their churches, both of which are valid needs,” Sylvia Ronsvalle, co-author of State of the Church Through 2000, said in a release on Empty Tomb’s Web site. “But those activities ought to be the platform from which to reach out to a hurting world as Christians practice their religion. Instead, congregation members appear to be emphasizing their own comfort over the needs of their local and international neighbors.”

The Philanthropy Roundtable, an online philanthropy magazine, reported that the single largest category of giving is religious. But, it stated, religious giving is down, especially among Christians.

“Nearly every denomination agrees that giving is nowhere near the biblically prescribed 10 percent,” read an article in Philanthropy magazine. “Catholic giving averages out to about 1.5 percent of gross income. Mainline Protestant giving is 2.9 percent. In some of the evangelical and charismatic/pentecostal groups such as the Assemblies of God, average levels range from 4 to 8 percent.”

According to Gary Tobin, president of the Institute for Jewish and Community Research in San Francisco, giving among American Jews mirrors the decline among Christians.
Tobin estimated Jewish giving at somewhere between the Catholic 1.5 percent and the mainline Protestant 2.9 percent.

Jodi Mathews is BCE’s communications director.