SCG11 Prss Release

empty tomb, inc.

Sylvia Ronsvalle
(217) 356-9519

In Light of Church Member Giving Declines through 2011, Church Leaders Should Focus on Global Triage Needs Rather than Techniques to Reverse Trends, According to New empty tomb Report

Champaign, IL, Oct. 11, 2013

Church member giving did not recover in 2011, according to a new report from empty tomb, inc.

In 2011, in a broad group of denominations in the U.S., per member giving to Total Contributions was down in current dollars, in inflation-adjusted dollars, and as a portion of income, compared to 2010.

The new report, The State of Church Giving through 2011, is scheduled to be released October 11, 2013. The book is the 23rd Edition in the series from empty tomb, inc.

Although declines were found in both per member giving and in membership as a percent of U.S. population, the report proposes that church leaders focus on Christians' potential to impact global needs rather than on techniques to reverse the declines (see the "Potential" section below).

Key Findings

Inflation-Adjusted Dollars Giving Declined Four Years in a Row. The decline in per member giving to Total Contributions in inflation-adjusted dollars was the fourth decline in a row, 2008 through 2011. The four-year decline was the longest in the 1968-2011 period.

Further, for a subset of 11 denominations that have data for 1921–2011, the only other period of prolonged decline in per member giving to Total Contributions in inflation-adjusted dollars was the seven years from 1928 through 1934. Six of those seven years were in the Great Depression.

Current Dollars Giving Declined for the First Time in 2008, and Again in 2009 and 2011. Per member giving to Total Contributions in current dollars did not decline in the 1968–2011 period until 2008. Per member giving in current dollars then declined in 2009 and 2011. The 2011 amount of per member giving in current dollars was lower than in 2008.

Declines Were Evident Across the Theological Spectrum. The analysis in the new book considered giving in a subset of six denominations affiliated with the National Council of Evangelicals and eight denominations affiliated with the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. The analysis found that giving declined as a portion of income in both groups. Although the NAE-affiliated denominations continued to post a higher level of per member giving as a percent of income, the rate of decline between 1968 and 2011 to Total Contributions was also steeper in the NAE-affiliated denominations.

However, in 2011, both the NAE-affiliated and NCC-affiliated denominations posted a 53% decline in giving as a percent of income to Benevolences from each group's 1968 base. Benevolences is the subcategory of Total Contributions that includes spending beyond the local congregation's needs, including denominational and seminary support, as well as international and local missions.

Membership as a Percent of U.S. Population Declined. Membership in a group of 36 denominations, including some of the fastest growing Protestant communions, the two largest Protestant communions in the U.S., and the Roman Catholic Church, declined from 45% of the U.S. population in 1968, to 35% in 2011, a decline of 22% from the 1968 base

Trends Suggest Continued Declines. The new book also considers trends, based on the 1968 through 2011 data. Two key findings relate to per member giving to Benevolences and to membership as a percent of U.S. population. These two trends are presented in Figure 9 and Figure 14 in this press release.

Trend in Per Member Giving to Benevolences. Per member giving to Benevolences as a percent of income declined from 0.66% in 1968 to 0.34% in 2011, a decline of 48% from the 1968 base, and the lowest level in the 1968-2011 period. Using the 1968-1985 data, both exponential (decay model) and linear (straight-line) trends were projected to 2100. According to the exponential trend, per member giving to Benevolences as a portion of income would be 0.18% in 2050, if the current pattern of giving continues. See Figure 9 for an illustration of this finding.

Figure 9: Projected Trends for Composite Denominations, Giving to Benevolences as a Percent of Income,
Using Linear and Exponential Regression Based on Data for 1968-1985, with Actual Data for 1986-2011

Trend in Membership as a Percent of U.S. Population. The data for the 36 communions, including the Catholic Church, the two largest Protestant denominations, and some of the fastest-growing Protestant communions in the U.S., was projected using the entire 1968-2011 period. The exponential trend suggests that the group of denominations that represented 45% of the U.S. population in 1968, and 35% in 2011, would be 30% in 2050, and 24% in 2100, if the 1968-2011 rate of decline continues. See Figure 14 for an illustration of this finding.

Figure 14: Trend in Membership as a Percent of U.S. Population, 36 Denominations, Linear and
Exponential Regression Based on Data for 1968-2011.

Analysis of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2011 Consumer Expenditure Survey (CE) for Americans' Charitable Giving Finds Religious Giving Is the Largest Category. The new book also analyzes the U.S. BLS 2011 CE data 2011 CE cash contributions of all Americans by age, income level, and region of the U.S. In 2011, Americans reported that 69% of their donations were given to the category of "church, religious organizations," compared to 23% to "charities and other organizations," 3% to "educational institutions," and 5% to "Gifts to non-CU (consumer unit) members of stocks, bonds, and mutual funds."

Region. In 2011, the Midwest, South, and West each gave a larger amount to "church, religious organizations" than did the Northeast.

Age. Although those in the 65–74 years bracket gave the largest number of dollars to charity, those 75 years and older gave the largest portion of income. The Under-25 years group gave the smallest portion of income to charity. However, as a percent of after-tax income, the Under-25 years group directed 84% of their giving to "church, religious organizations," the study found, suggesting that young people receive their early philanthropy education in religious settings, and add other charitable categories as they age.

Income. Although those in the $150,000 and more income level gave the largest number of dollars to charity, those in the $30,000 to $39,999 income bracket gave a higher percent of income to charity that those in higher brackets, including the $150,000 and more bracket.

Potential. The new book advises church leaders to consider potential giving rather than focus on negative trends: "The potential, rather than decline, should be the focus of church leaders. It is important to use the statistics to take the temperature of the church. However, the next step is to evaluate how to get well, not hide under the covers."

"Uncorrected Obsolescence." Church leaders, according to the analysis in The State of Church Giving through 2011, have functioned with a seeming lack of awareness of the potential for church members to impact global need because of economic changes in the U.S.:

"In another context, John Kenneth Galbraith, Harvard economist, identified a helpful concept that may be useful in describing the submerged mass that is impacting the church. Whatever one thinks of his economic theories, Galbraith's construction of 'uncorrected obsolescence,' in his book The Affluent Society, is most useful in describing the difference between current economic reality and the mindset of those making decisions.

"Church leaders seem to function in a state of uncorrected obsolescence, as if they are unaware of the practical potential of the affluence that has spread through U.S. society since World War II. Christians in the U.S. have been living in widespread affluence that has not ever before been typical of an entire society."

Potential Church Member Giving If the Percent of Income Had Not Declined, 1968-2011: One example of this potential is considered in the new book. If church members had given the same percent in 2011 that they gave in 1968, the composite denominations in the empty tomb analysis would have received aggregate Total Contributions of $30.3 billion rather than $22.9 billion, a 32% increase; Congregational Finances of $24 billion rather than $19.6 billion (rounded), or 22% more; Benevolences of $6.4 billion, rather than $3.4 billion (rounded), or 90% more. These amounts do not represent increased giving, but rather would have occurred if the 1968 levels in giving as a percent of income had not decreased.

Potential Church Member Giving Compared to Foreign-Born Remittances. Another analysis in the new book considers what church member giving would be if native-born church members in the U.S. gave at the same level as the amount of money sent by foreign-born residents to other countries, called "remittances." While foreign-born residents of the U.S. sent an average of $2,481 each internationally in 2011, native-born church members were estimated to have donated $90 each in 2011 to international ministries. If native-born church members had supported international missions at the level of foreign-born remittances, there would have been an additional $385 billion available in 2011 for global ministries.

Potential to Impact Global Triage Needs. The new book uses the concept of "triage" to identify needs that can be helped with immediate intervention and points to two needs that should receive increased priority from church leaders.

These two needs, The State of Church Giving through 2011 suggests, should be raised in priority among denominations, para-congregational Christian groups, and the networks associated with the large congregations referred to as "megachurches." The two triage needs are: (1) reducing global child deaths to the goal rate identified by world leaders both in 1990 and again in 2000, and (2) engaging unengaged unreached people groups.

Potential to Engage the Unengaged Unreached People Groups. The new book cites a working estimate of $200 million a year to field cross-cultural missionaries needed to engage unengaged unreached people groups with no access to a presentation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The book notes that a group of businessmen have launched the Issachar Initiative both to "give and/or mobilize" $4.6 billion by 2025 to assist with this goal, and to encourage denominational and mission organizations to focus on "the least-reached." The year 2025, the new study notes, is also the goal year announced by Wycliffe Bible Translators to have started a Bible translation in every language.

Potential to Reduce Global Child Deaths. Unlike the triage need for evangelism, the second triage need of reducing global child deaths is not yet a focus among church leaders in the U.S., according to The State of Church Giving through 2011. However, global leaders in 1990 and again in 2000 announced that reducing global child deaths should be a top priority.

The information that church leaders need to mobilize an effort to help reduce the rate of global child deaths is available, according to the new report. For example, world agencies have provided a country-by-country analysis where these deaths of children under age 5 occur, and what are the causes of death. Further, experts have estimated that an additional $5 billion a year is needed to speed up reduction of these deaths.

Rather than retrench because of declines in per member giving and membership as a percent of population, The State of Church Giving through 2011 advises that church leaders mobilize members to use more of their potential to impact the global triage need of reducing global child deaths. The report notes that if action is not taken, the difference between the 2014 goal and the actual rate of progress in reducing child deaths will mean that 2, 297,991 children under the age of five will die in 2014 who would not have died if the gap between goal and reality were closed.

It is in closing this gap that the report challenges church leaders to become active. The report advises three specific steps for church leaders to mobilize church members.

1. Church leaders can begin a coordinated, parallel emphasis across denominations and other church organizations to increase the priority level of reducing global child deaths among their constituents. The report notes that denominations and Christian para-congregational organizations are doing many "commendable" activities already. However, "The issue is that it is not sufficient." Increasing the priority of reducing global child deaths is a practical step that church leaders can take to raise the focus of church members from the internal needs of their congregations to a common priority across the theological spectrum. This emphasis on a common purpose will strengthen the "oneness" that Jesus prayed for on behalf of those who would believe in Jesus as a result of the first disciples' testimony (John 17:20-23). That oneness would be like a modern miracle, resulting in power for good, according to The State of Church Giving through 2011.

2. Church leaders, both denominational and para-congregational, can launch a parallel yet coordinated distribution effort, through the vast network of church delivery channels already in place, to deliver the additional needed assistance to the children in the 74 countries that account for 96% of these deaths. Each delivery channel would distribute the additional resources provided by their individual constituencies through already existing channels, according to the proposal in the new book. The new development would be a higher level of coordination, and thus efficiency, among those parallel church delivery channels to target the most critical needs among the children under five who will otherwise die without this intentional intervention.

3. Each of 187 church denominations can mobilize its own members to donate an additional $50 each per year to that denomination's own efforts to reduce these child deaths. Given the membership in these denominations, 100 million donations of $50 each through these denominations could raise the needed $5 billion to help, in Jesus' name, reduce the number of global child deaths as part of pursuing God's agenda. A PDF of the proposal is available here. Support documents are available at here.

The effort to raise an additional $50 from each of 100 million Christians in the U.S. on a yearly basis could be assisted both by para-congregational leaders, as well as the networks that have developed through megachurches in the U.S.

The new book indicates that a critical aspect of the effort to reduce global child deaths through church structures in the U.S. will be dynamic leaders who can mobilize a broad array of Christians across the historically Christian theological spectrum. The new book notes that any number of national church leaders could energize other church leaders, and then 100 million church members, to mobilize to reduce child deaths. To "prime the pump" as a way to encourage leaders to surface, the new book names a "dream team" of individuals who have demonstrated national leadership in the church in the U.S. and therefore might be able to begin such a mobilization.

The Year 2011 Is the Latest Congregation-Based Data Available. The new report is the 23rd edition in the series that tracks data for a broad group of Protestant denominations. As of 2010, the composite denominations encompassed over 100,000 congregations in the U.S. The data is based on actual congregational reports sent to denominational offices. The denominations then aggregate and publish the data in the Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches. In some cases, empty tomb also obtains data directly from denominational offices. Because of the time it takes the denominations to obtain and aggregate the actual reports from the congregations, 2011 is the latest data year available.

Book and Chapter 8 Are Available. Chapter 8 of the new report is available here.

The full report, The State of Church Giving through 2011: The Kingdom of God, Church Leaders and Institutions, Global Triage Needs, and the Promises of Jesus, is available for purchase in book form through Internet booksellers or directly from empty tomb, inc.

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