Quantcast
Connect with us

America’s Christian churches are flush with cash despite declining attendance — except for one

Published

on

Joel Osteen (ABC News)

Religion accounts for the largest share of the approximately US$425 billion Americans give away every year.

Even so, the charitable dollars channeled to churches and other houses of worship have slowly declined as a percentage of overall giving for decades. In 2018, the actual total both fell by 3.9% when adjusted for inflation and dipped for the first time below 30% of total giving.

ADVERTISEMENT

I study trends in religious giving and their implications. To me, what stands out today is how well congregations are generally faring even as the share of Americans who belong to a house of worship declines.

Empty pews

The bulk of religious giving goes directly to the over 350,000 congregations nationwide dotting almost every local community.
On top of churches and other houses of worship, religious giving covers donations made directly to religious denominations, missionary societies and religious media.

An important trend is that the share of Americans who claim no religious affiliation is growing, having risen to 26% from 16% in 2007.

ADVERTISEMENT

Only half of all Americans now claim to belong to a specific congregation, a historic low. And only about 45% of Americans say they go to church at least once a month, down from 54% in 2007.

Since religious affiliation and attendance at religious services are two of the leading predictors for both religious and overall charitable giving, I don’t find it surprising to see religious giving lose some ground.

ADVERTISEMENT

Other faith-based giving

Money that donors give to clearly religious causes, including Catholic schools, Jewish community centers or Muslim relief agencies, isn’t classified as religious giving. Rather, it gets lumped with organizations focused on particular shared causes such as education or social services.

Major nonprofits with religious missions, such as the Salvation Army, World Vision and Catholic Charities, are not, in terms of the charitable statistics collected, defined as religious.

ADVERTISEMENT

Even so, by my count, six of the nation’s 25 largest privately supported charities are clearly faith-based organizations.

Based on data collected in 2012, the most recent available, donors label three-quarters of what they give to charity as supporting religious institutions of some kind.

ADVERTISEMENT

Relative stability

U.S. congregations are nonprofits. But unlike most other nonprofits, they generally don’t need to file paperwork with the Internal Revenue Service to report the amount of funding they receive and spend.

That makes it hard to find detailed and accurate data on congregational finances, so my colleagues and I conducted a study to get a clearer picture.

We found that religious affiliation and attendance trends do not always simply predict similar trends within congregations. About as many houses of worship are gaining congregants as losing them, with 39% growing between 2014 and 2017 and another 38% seeing their congregations shrink. The rest were stable.

The picture is similar when it comes to the amount of revenue congregations received. More congregations are bringing in more money than are bringing in less.

ADVERTISEMENT

Catholics face more trouble

To get a clear picture, it’s important to recognize that religious participation and giving trends are not the same across the great diversity of U.S. congregations. These patterns differ overall by religious tradition and dominant race or ethnicity, along with the size, age and location of congregations.

For example, 56% of the country’s Catholic parishes received less revenue in 2017 than in 2014. But 59% of black Protestant congregations received more.

ADVERTISEMENT

Lake Institute on Faith & Giving postdoctoral researcher Christopher Walter Munn contributed to this article.

[ Deep knowledge, daily. Sign up for The Conversation’s newsletter. ]The Conversation

David King, Assistant Professor of Philanthropic Studies, IUPUI

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


Report typos and corrections to: [email protected].
READ COMMENTS - JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Continue Reading

2020 Election

Stephen Colbert details ‘petty’ Trump’s 46-minute ‘pants-filling tantrum’ to ‘kamikaze MAGA dead-enders’

Published

on

"Late Show" host Stephen Colbert walked through President Donald Trump's recent 46-minute Facebook rant in an epic opening monologue Wednesday night.

Thursday will mark one month since the election, and "the president has spent that entire time throwing a loud, pants-filling tantrum," said Colbert. "If we don't change presidents soon, he's going to get a rash."

He explained that the world had been subjected to Trump's "call to arms" for his supporters, seeking to overthrow the election and nullify the will of the people.

Continue Reading

2020 Election

‘Book her on Jeanine Pirro’: Witness ridiculed after going viral during Giuliani’s Michigan hearing

Published

on

Rudy Giuliani's election fraud hearing went off the rails Wednesday evening as one woman monopolized the comments section with a series of rants.

“That poll book is off by 100,000!” claimed the woman. “Why don’t you look at the registered voters on there? … what was the turnout rate, 120 percent?”

Some speculated if the woman was intoxicated while others wondered if she'd been using Gov. Rick Perry's "smart glasses" as a talking stick. One Michigander explained, however, that some people in the state simply talk that way.

Continue Reading
 

Breaking Banner

Republican senator loudly tells Trump on speakerphone he’s going to lose his two major issues in military bill

Published

on

The military spending bill is coming up for a vote in the "Lame Duck Session" but the two major things President Donald Trump wanted aren't happening now.

Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe was walking through the halls of the U.S. Capitol with the president on speakerphone again, this time telling him the bad news about the bill. Inhofe was caught by reporters in a Capitol Hill restaurant several months ago loudly talking to Trump on a speakerphone. In that call, he promised Trump that there would not be name changes to Confederate bases.

Continue Reading