Churches wrestle with drop in donations - Word&Way

Churches wrestle with drop in donations

WASHINGTON (RNS)—The number of churches that reported a drop in giving due to the sour economy rose nearly 10 percent last year, according to new survey.

In 2009, 38 percent of churches reported a decline in giving, versus 29 percent in 2008.

Megachurches—those with 2,000 members are more—were hit hardest, with 47 percent reporting a decrease in giving last year, up from 23 percent in 2008.

The second State of the Plate study, by Colorado Springs-based Maximum Generosity and Christianity Today International, was based on data from 1,017 churches. The study included small and large churches, as well as mainline, evangelical, Pentecostal, nondenominational, Catholic and Orthodox parishes.

“Multiple research projects last year documented the sharp decline in church giving,” said Brian Kluth, founder of Maximum Generosity. “Our research this year shows things have only gotten worse for a growing number of churches.”

West Coast states suffered most from the depressed economy: 55 percent reported decreased giving.

Mountain states were close behind with 48 percent reporting a drop in giving.

The study also found December contributions, usually high during the holiday season, fell short of expectations, leaving many churches in the hole as they started the new year.

Even so, 45 percent of churches increased their budget for 2010, and 24 percent kept their budget the same.

The report said the 34 percent of churches that scaled back made cuts in travel and conferences, ministry programs, and expansion or renovation projects.

The survey, sent via e-mail, was not a traditional random phone sample and does not have a statistical margin of error.