The State of Church Giving through 2002 – Chapter 1 Highlights

Chapter 1 Highlights

  • Per member giving to churches increased in current dollars between 1968 and 2002. Giving as a percentage of income declined between 2001 and 2002. Overall, giving as a percent of income was lower in 2002 than in 1968.
  • Per member giving to Total Contributions increased 76%, from 1968 to 2002 in inflation-adjusted 2000 dollars, while U.S. per capita Disposable (after-tax) income increased 110%.
  • Therefore, Per Member Giving as a Percentage of Income declined from 3.11% in 1968 to 2.62% in 2002, a decline of 16% in the portion of income donated to the church from the 1968 base.
  • Giving as a portion of income to Congregational Finances, funding local operations, declined 9% from 1968-2002. Although sporadic from year to year, a general increase in giving to Congregational Finances began in 1993. By 2002, giving as a portion of income to this category had recovered to the level of 1973-1974.
  • Benevolences, funding the larger mission of the church beyond the local congregation, declined 41% as a portion of income from 1968-2002. The 2002 level of giving to Benevolences as a percent of income was the lowest in the 1968-2002 period.
  • In 1968, 21¢ of every dollar donated funded Benevolences. By 2002, 15¢ of every dollar went to Benevolences. Of each additional inflation-adjusted dollar donated to the church between 1968 and 2002, 94¢ went to Congregational Finances.
  • From 2001 to 2002, while per member giving to churches in inflation-adjusted dollars increased to Total Contributions and the subcategory of Congregational Finances, giving decreased to Benevolences.
  • If the portion of income donated to the church had not declined between 1968 and 2002, congregations and denominations would have had, in aggregate dollars, 68% more for Benevolences in 2002 than the amount actually donated.