"I don't understand why our offerings are down. Attendance is not down."
"It's a bit scary. If we lose our two highest-giving families, our offerings will be down almost 20 percent. None of the younger families will replace that."
Those are two representative comments from pastors who have expressed specific concerns to me about their church's finances. Moreover, they are often perplexed why offerings are down when other factors point that offerings should be higher.
These are not random comments. A recent study by LifeWay Research showed that over half (51 percent) of Protestant pastors said their church's offerings were still affected negatively by the economy. Only 13 percent said the offerings were improving.
So what's behind this somewhat gloomy perspective? Why might your church's offerings be struggling? Here are six clear reasons:
1. Giving to churches lags economic growth. The church member who just got a job after several months of unemployment often does not resume church giving immediately, especially at the pace he or she gave during his or her previous employment.
2. The millennials are skeptical givers. Those born between 1980 and 2000 are often reticent givers. They want to be certain the church is a good steward of the contributed funds.
3. Charitable giving overall is struggling in many sectors. It's not just the churches that are feeling this challenge.
4. Giving to the institution is the motive of most of the Builder generation (those born before 1946). Subsequent generations are more likely to give to a cause or a vision. As the Builder generation fades, so does institutionally motivated giving.
5. Tax laws are hurting wealthy charitable givers. New tax laws for wealthy individuals do not give full tax credit for charitable giving.
6. Declining frequency of attendance. I have noted at this blog and at the "Rainer on Leadership" podcast that the No. 1 reason for decline in church attendance is members attending less frequently. This trend also affects offerings since some members only give when they are in worship services.
The challenge is real, but the situation is not hopeless. Leaders of churches who can communicate a clear and compelling vision are more likely to see increases in church offerings. Also, churches with high expectation membership classes typically see higher offerings as well.
How are the offerings in your church? Which of the six factors are affecting your church? Let me hear from you.
Thom S. Rainer is the president of LifeWay Christian Resources. For the original article, visit thomrainer.com.
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