Today’s blog is from Curt Swindoll. Curt (@CurtSwindoll) is the executive vice president for strategy at Pursuant, a comprehensive fundraising consultancy based in Dallas, Texas. He serves as the principal of Pursuant’s work with faith-based organizations and leads the firm’s Direct Response practice group.
The American evangelical Christian experience today is unrecognizable compared to a generation ago and the challenges has never been greater for many church leaders. Today’s young people are increasingly apathetic to spiritual life, and studies show they are leaving the church in droves, never to return. Compounding matters are the fact that those who remain donate fewer funds to support ministry programs and missions, with young Christians giving much less compared to their elders.
Despite these obstacles, I still believe there’s hope. While we can rest in the promise that nothing shall completely extinguish the Church’s light in the world, we can’t turn blindly from these new challenges. This happens when we recognize our current reality and take the time to understand how we reached this point.
How Did We Get to this Point?
In the 1980s and early 1990s, the “Moral Majority” arose in reaction to the cultural upheaval and apparent desertion of traditional American values of the 1960s and 70s. Today’s cultural milieu has seen a resurgence in issues that notably defined the 1960s have intensified by a growing hatred of evangelical morals, especially as they relate to issues of homosexuality and marriage.
The combined effect of these stresses and strains upon the evangelical church amounts to what journalist and pastor John S. Dickerson has coined “The Great Evangelical Recession” of the 21st century.
4 “Wake Up Call” Statistics for Church Leaders
How have these changes impacted ministries like yours? Here are a few statistics that church leaders can’t afford to ignore when it comes to the new realities of church giving:
- The Great Recession saw churches donations fall by 20 to 30 percent. There’s no denying the impact the Great Recession had on many churches and ministries. While the economy has recovered, churches have not seen an equivocal restoration in rates of giving.
- In 2004, tithes and offerings accounted for 57 percent of total giving in the United States. Today, church giving only accounts for 31 percent. Americans are increasingly giving more to charity, but less of that money is going to the church.
- Older Church Members account for 19 percent of church population, but contribute 46 percent of its donations. Attitudes around giving have changed, especially with younger generation. In order to create a culture of generosity among younger church members, we must recognize what motivates them to contribute financially and adapt our approaches.
- Evangelical giving across the board may drop by about 70% during the next two to three decade. This is probably one of the most alarming statistics in the book. Dickerson highlights that when you combine all of the trends around church giving and attendance, many churches might find themselves in a financial predicament in the next 20-30 years.
It’s Time to Reverse the Trend
The days of waiting until the end of the year to “work it all out” or hoping for the best won’t be enough to engage the people in your church and move them toward extravagant generosity. We [the evangelical church] can reinvent ourselves ten years from now, in desperate reaction. Or we can reinvent ourselves now, in thoughtful proactive planning.
If you’re ready to take the first step in reversing the downward trends in church giving and lead your church towards deeper levels of generosity, here are two resources we’ve created for you:
The Great Evangelical Recession: Executive Summary — You may not have time to dive into the entire book but I wanted to share with you this great tool you can use to measure the health of your church relative to the movement as a whole.
Isn’t There an Easier Way to Fund Ministry? — Church leaders are beginning to ask some important questions when it comes to funding ministry. In this resource, we unpack some of the most critical questions related to the future of church giving and what it means for your church.
Are these statistics indicative of the challenges impacting generosity in your church? What are you doing to overcome them?