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Some 38 percent of churches faced declines in church offerings in 2009, according to a new study by Maximum Generosity and Christianity Today International. Megachurches and congregations on the West Coast were hit hardest. As a result, many churches are changing their spending habits, according to the study.

This marks the second consecutive year churches have seen a significant drop in income levels. In 2008, churches saw a 29 percent drop in giving. One of the main reasons for the large drop was December donations. Typically viewed as a month for churches to close the gap on budget shortfalls, instead 32 percent of churches surveyed said their December giving missed expectations.

Nearly half (47 percent) of churches between 2,000 and 5,000 weekly attendees—megachurches—reported a drop in giving, compared to only 23 percent in 2008. Churches on the West Coast faced the worst drop of any region, with 55 percent of churches from California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska and Hawaii showing decreases.

In response to the changing tithe and donation numbers, 32 percent of churches are trimming their budgets, more than in 2008. However, more churches are actually increasing their budgets (45 percent) for the coming year as well. Among those cutting budgets, most are saving costs in the areas of travel and conferences, ministry programs, and expansion/renovation projects. Among those increasing budgets, most are doing it in the areas of benevolence giving, ministry programs and missions giving.

In addition, more churches are planning to focus on finances and teaching in 2010. A majority of churches surveyed are planning on preaching about the subject, offering financial classes and distributing pamphlets with resources. The most popular outside resources for financial help are Dave Ramsey’s ministry and Crown Financial Ministries. [stateoftheplate.info, 3/29/10]

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