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Church Giving Down Compared to Non Profits


            A recent study by Empty Tomb, an Illinois based research organization shows some troubling signs for church giving.  From 2007 to 2008, churches saw a decrease of $20.02 in per member gifts. 


            On the other hand, giving to non profit organizations like World Vision, Campus Crusade and others increased by $41.59. 


            In short, people have decreased their giving to their local church while increasing their giving to non profits.  Why?  Certainly, one factor is that churches tend to have high overhead—gifts go to fund debt, buildings, and salaries.  Those have no appeal to the average giver.


            Non profits however can typically boast of more direct impact.  Non profits tend to keep their overhead low so that the majority of dollars given go directly to impact individuals and individual programs.


            The average church spend more than 85% of their budget on “congregational finances”—salaries, utilities, buildings and maintenance.  Christian Smith, the Director of Center for the Study of Religion and Society noted that Christians hold back because of distrust over the use of finances and lack of teaching from the pulpit.


            In a time where competition is fierce for giving dollars, churches must adjust.  They must begin to think more programmatically instead of operationally.  The day of “if you build it and they will come,” is not the mode.  Churches must begin to think more like non profits and justify the wise use of the giving dollar. 


            Otherwise, the gap between church and non profit might grow larger.

About Bill High

Bill is CEO of the Signatry: A Global Christian Foundation. He works with families, individual givers, and financial advisers to share the foundation’s message regarding biblical generosity and charitable giving. » Learn More. He is the co-author with David Green of Giving It All Away and Getting It All Back Again: The Way of Living Generously.

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