Church collection plates were a little bit fuller last fall, according to a LifeWay Research survey of 1,000 pastors of small and large Protestant churches in the U.S.
About 40 percent of the pastors said their churches received more offerings in 2017 than in 2016, and three-quarters said their church met or exceeded its budget.
Only about a third say the economy gave their church trouble.
The pastors were surveyed Aug. 30 to Sept. 18, 2017. The report is the latest in an effort that began in 2009 to track the impact of the economy on churches, said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. McConnell said this is the first time the majority of pastors said the economy isn’t troubling their church.
Past ‘difficult’ decade
“The past decade has been difficult for many church budgets,” McConnell said. “But things seem to be looking up.”
That observation seems to be true of national giving as well. Contributions to missions and ministries supported by the Cooperative Program (CP) of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) are 4.01 percent above budgeted projections in the first four months of the convention’s fiscal year that began in October 2017 (see “Year-to-date SBC CP giving above projection” in Baptist News Briefs column).
At the height of the Great Recession in 2010, LifeWay Research found most pastors (80 percent) said the economy had a negative effect on the church budget. That dropped to 51 percent by March 2016.
In the most recent survey, 35 percent of pastors say the economy has a negative impact on the church. Seventeen percent cite a positive impact and 45 percent say no impact.
African-American pastors (59 percent) and pastors of churches with 50 to 99 attenders (40 percent) are more likely to say the economy is having a negative impact. Pastors of larger churches (with 250 or more attenders) are more likely to say the economy is treating their church well (28 percent).
About half of pastors (48 percent) say their churches are meeting their budget. Twenty-three percent say offerings are higher than budgeted. Twenty-six percent say offerings are lower.
Larger churches — those with average attendance of 250 or more — are more likely to say offerings are higher (30 percent). Pastors of smaller churches — those with fewer than 100 average attenders — are more likely to say offerings are lower (29 percent).
African-American pastors (41 percent) are more likely to say giving is under budget than white pastors (26 percent).
Still, churches seem to be regaining their footing as the economy improves, McConnell said.
Good turnout overall
“Overall, 2017 was a good year for church budgets even with the chain reaction trading struggles,” he said. “Except for isolated local downturns, the financial struggles of churches not meeting budget likely have nothing to do with the overall economy.”
For more information or to view the complete survey report, visit LifeWayResearch.com.
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