The overall amount of giving may be up---but a new survey indicates that few tithe and many give nothing.
Good news for pastors: Giving to churches rose substantially in 2003. The bad news: The percentage of tithers remained flat.
According to an April 2004 poll by the Barna Research Group (BRG), the average amount of money donated to churches and other houses of worship rose $824 per year--a 14 percent increase from 2002 and the highest mean amount since 2000.
But the study of 1,014 adults revealed that the number of tithers have not changed. Among Christians, the survey found that just 7 percent had tithed to their churches in 2003. In 2002, just 6 percent of born-again adults had tithed to their congregations. Interestingly, more than twice as many believers gave no money to a church in 2003 (18 percent) as those who tithed to a congregation (7 percent), BRG said.
The poll discovered that the segments most likely to give at least 10 percent of their income to a house of worship were evangelicals (14 percent), adults with an active faith (12 percent of those who had attended church, prayed and read the Bible during the previous week), African Americans, charismatic or Pentecostal Christians, and people from households with a gross income of $60,000 or more (7 percent among each of those segments).
BRG president George Barna says the number of tithers will likely remain flat until church leaders address people's motivations for giving. "Once a church establishes itself as being trustworthy in people's minds, it will raise a minimal amount of money," he says.
"However, to significantly increase people's willingness to give generously, a church must speak to the issues that get people excited," Barna adds. "The leader ... must present a compelling vision for the ministry--not simply keeping the doors open and the programs running, but a clear and energizing goal that describes how lives will be transformed by the church if people contribute their time, money and skills."
Latinos Leaving the "Roman Road"
A historic loyalty to Catholicism is exchanged for the spiritual experiences of evangelicalism.
After centuries of devotion to Catholicism, nearly 20 percent of Latinos nationwide have turned to evangelical Christianity in the last decade.
"Drawn to the no-nonsense sermons on pious, drug- and alcohol-free living, many Latinos say evangelism is a powerful antidote to everyday troubles plaguing their communities," The Los Angeles Daily News observed in a report from earlier this year. Many Latinos who converted from Catholicism say the strict moral code demanded by evangelical preachers is the main attraction.
Latinos, who number more than 40 million, are the largest minority and the fastest-growing ethnic group in America today.
It is estimated that 9 million of them are evangelical, with nearly 70 percent considered Pentecostals or charismatics. Hispanic churches are the fastest-growing congregations in the Assemblies of God.
According to 2004 projections by the U.S. Census Bureau, the Hispanic population is expected to triple by 2050, with Hispanics growing from about 36 million to more than 100 million, by that time almost 25 percent of the population.
Using its own tracking figures and the census projections, a Barna Research Group study released earlier this year estimated that born-again Hispanics will double from 10 percent today to 19.9 percent in 2050.
Fighting Porn With Hunger
A pastor's monthlong public fast inspires new vice legislation.
An Assemblies of God pastor in San Francisco made national news this spring with a 33-day hunger strike, which he says was inspired by God and prompted by the deteriorating condition of his ministry's neighborhood.
For 18 years, Roger Huang has dedicated his life to the city's Tenderloin District, forming the San Francisco Rescue Mission, which includes a Christian school, a 140-member congregation (the San Francisco Worship Center) and homeless center.
Huang decided to go on a hunger strike when the gay strip club just a few doors down from his ministry's school changed management earlier this year and reopened as a straight-themed strip club.
"I was praying one morning, when God told me to read the story of David and Goliath," he told Ministries Today. "I thought that God was going to use me to be the deliverer just like David. But God spoke to me that I was to fast and pray in front of City Hall and prepare the way for the deliverance."
On April 5, Huang started a hunger strike, vowing to sit on a fold-up chair and sleep in front of City Hall, with the goal to shut down the strip club. His crusade attracted the attention of local and national media, which chronicled his hunger strike that ended on May 6.
Although the strip club did not shut down, the native of Taipei, Taiwan, believes that the hunger strike may have long-term impact on the city.
San Francisco supervisor Tony Hall sympathized with Huang's cause, introducing legislation that would prohibit adult-entertainment businesses from opening within 1,000 feet of schools, playgrounds and child care centers.
More than half of Protestant churches are experimenting with contemporary worship.
More churches nationwide are incorporating contemporary worship services--and using modern technology to do so. The poll, conducted by Ellison Research of Phoenix, asked 659 senior pastors of Protestant churches whether the overall style of worship in their churches had changed in the last five years. Fifteen percent said their worship services have become much more contemporary, and another 36 percent said they had become a little more contemporary. Meanwhile, 44 percent noted no significant change, while 5 percent said their worship services have become more traditional.
Released in March 2004, the survey also explored specific worship elements or styles churches use today, compared to what was used in 1999. Five years ago, only 5 percent used PowerPoint or similar computer-graphics presentations at least once a month, but today the technology is used by 36 percent of all churches.
Additionally, just 4 percent of the pastors surveyed used video clips during worship services in 1999. Today, that is up to 29 percent. Three other elements increased by more than 50 percent in the last five years.
Five years ago, 38 percent used praise and worship choruses during worship, compared to 74 percent today. The use of Christian rock, pop or country music climbed from 9 percent five years ago to 25 percent today, and the use of drama skits or sketches has gone from 23 percent to 42 percent.
A Christian company brings Malachi's mandate into the 21st century.
A Christian-based company is trying to help churches nationwide get "100 percent of 10 percent--the tithe." Launched in 2003, Chicago-based Direct Tithing seeks to help congregations increase revenue and make giving easier for church members.
Direct Tithing founder and CEO Mario McGowan says, "the church is the only organization in which you can become a member and not pay." He cites the 2003 Barna Research Group study that reveals only 7 percent of Christians tithe.
"[The Bible] talks about the covenant of tithing," McGowan, 40, told Ministries Today. "The covenant of tithing has been broken in America, with 92 percent of the body of Christ not tithing. We're trying to re-establish the covenant of tithing."
McGowan noted that for years, people have paid their mortgage and car loans through direct deposit.
"We promote Proverbs 3:9-10, which says, 'Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing,'" says McGowan, an ordained minister through Crusaders Ministries in Chicago. "Why can't the tithe be first versus the mortgage or car loan? I believe this is the 21st century way of giving."
Direct Tithing safely and securely helps church members have their weekly, semimonthly, or monthly tithes or offerings debited from their bank accounts. Unlike typical online check-paying programs in which checks are automatically cut and sent to recipients, payments made to Direct Tithing are deposited directly into the church's bank account. Additionally, subscribers to Direct Tithing can receive 24-hour access to detailed, confidential reports online of what they've given.
McGowan says Direct Tithing offers several benefits to churches, including increasing revenue by 20 percent to 30 percent in the first year, and saving money on printing costs associated with envelopes for giving and labor expense for sending tithing reports to members. Direct Tithing would also eliminate internal theft.
McGowan says nine of the top 25 denominations in the country, including the Assemblies of God, Church of God in Christ, Full Gospel Baptist, Methodists and Presbyterians, are considering using Direct Tithing.
He noted that about 1,100 churches, ranging from tiny fellowships with eight members to congregations with 13,000 members, have committed to using Direct Tithing. McGowan adds that 10,000 church members have already signed up.
For more information, visit www.directtithing.com, or call 1-866-344-8464.
A new medical confidentiality law may make certain prayer requests an invasion of privacy.
Disclosing details of church members' personal medical information could pose legal problems for congregations. Several ministers and specialists say religious groups could be crossing the line by sharing the information in newsletters and during worship services, no matter how well-intentioned the gesture.
Publishing details of a member's health condition without his or her permission is an invasion of privacy, says Richard Hammar, general counsel for the Missouri-based Assemblies of God and publisher of Church Law & Tax Report, a national bimonthly newsletter.
Hammar says some conditions carry more of a stigma than others, and mental illness is one of them. He adds that saying a person is recovering from a heart attack or being treated for cancer is "much less offensive."
The privacy issue has caught the attention of denominational legal offices, especially with last year's implementation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
The law called for broad protection of patient confidentiality rights and primarily applies to doctors, pharmacies and health-care organizations. But the statute made it more difficult to visit members in the hospital, especially if the patient had failed to sign a consent form for such visits. Many clergy and laypeople were concerned that the law would limit how they announced members' illnesses on prayer lists and in newsletters.
Carole Silberhorn, privacy officer for the Baltimore-Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church in Columbia, Maryland, says HIPAA regulations do not affect the way most congregations make prayer requests or announce members' illnesses. But she adds that it's also wise for each congregation to develop a procedure and policy for accepting and posting prayer requests.
Many congregations have reportedly been doing just that. Some have stopped open-floor prayer requests during worship services, requiring those asking for prayers to fill out a form and place it in the offering plate. Some also require written or oral assurance that the person being prayed for has consented to a public announcement or ask for the ill person's phone number to verify consent.
Boots, Spurs and ... a Bible
Boots, Spurs and ... a Bible
A Pentecostal pastor finds a new identity as The Lone Ranger.
Most pastors would discourage "lone ranger" Christianity, but this preacher has found a ministry as The Lone Ranger.
For five years, Rob Archey, senior pastor of Grace Assembly of God in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, has donned a mask and cowboy hat, assuming the identity of The Lone Ranger the 1949-57 TV show character, who, along with his sidekick, Tonto, brought truth and justice to the 1880s frontier.
Entertaining both adults and children, Archey has performed at a variety of festivals and outdoor shows nationwide, as well as private schools and churches. Archey's wife, Karen, and sons, Joe, Matt and Luke are all part of the show, which includes music, storytelling, blank shooting and bullwhip cracking.
"I teach the kids about honesty, fairness, caring, respect, loyalty, duty and courage," Archey, 44, told Ministries Today. "I emphasize gun safety." He adds that in every show, even in public schools, he "teaches the precepts of the Great Teacher."
A police officer for 17 years in Baltimore and western Pennsylvania before retiring to devote his full attention as pastor of Grace Assembly in August 2003, Archey came up with the idea for The Lone Ranger show in 1997 after answering a domestic dispute between a 12-year-old boy and his mother.
"The boy was out of control and lived in a one-parent home, which is all too common," he explains. "He had no positive male role model. Having three sons myself, my heart goes out to the little guys.
"It struck me that I could use my theatrical side to reach out to kids, especially at-risk boys, and instruct them about good conduct and good citizenship," Archey adds. "I wanted to teach the kids and adults basic moral values that the Bible illuminates. The Lone Ranger came to mind almost immediately."
The Masked Man was always a favorite of Archey, and he already owned an authentic Lone Ranger costume.
"The Lone Ranger stories are basic morality plays," he says. "I believe if you teach children early in life that there is a definite right and wrong, and a good and an evil, they will be better able to deal with those gray areas that always crop up in adulthood."