To Tithe or Not to Tithe

When it comes to giving among church members, there's good news and bad news, according to the latest annual report from Illinois-based research firm Empty Tomb.

The good news? Those who are part of a church easily give more than the general America public, with 2.26 percent of all funds given to charities coming from church members—compared to 1.8 percent from the general population. In addition, a whopping two-thirds of all charitable contributions go through churches or religious institutions.

On the negative side, however, is something most pastors would rather not hear: The average church member gives only 2.56 percent of what he earns to the church, instead of the biblical tithe of 10 percent. Empty Tomb researchers estimate the difference between the standard tithe and what those in the church currently give to be a whopping $161 billion. Furthermore, the study found that the average church still uses most of the money given to it to meet internal needs rather than those outside of its own community.

“Money is training wheels,” said Sylvia Ronsvalle, executive vice president of Empty Tomb. “If we’re not faithful in giving, how will we see the church grow?”

Ronsvalle and her team based their research on 2007 numbers gathered within the religious community. Even before the economic recession hit, church members' benevolence giving (e.g., giving toward international or local missions) was at an all-time low or 14 percent, compared to a high of 21 percent in the late 1960s. The average American parishioner gave $70 toward international ministries. [Religion News Service, 10/9/09]

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