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August 28, 2012Research

New Research: Slow Economy Continues to Weigh on Churches and Pastors

Last week, we released some new research on the economy and its effects on the local churches. Because of how economics works, the church is typically late to feel the impact of recessions and, subsequently, slow to recover from it. As long as unemployment remains high, and churches emphasize proportional giving, giving tends to be impacted. So, while we have seen a slow, measured recovery of the national economy, financial concerns remain for many churches.

From the release:

The survey of 1,000 Protestant pastors asked respondents "how is the economy impacting your church?" Almost two-thirds (64 percent) responded negatively, with 56 percent indicating somewhat negatively and 8 percent very negatively. One quarter of the pastors surveyed said, "the economy has had no impact on my church," while 9 percent indicated a positive impact on their churches.

However, there is some good news. LifeWay Research found that while the sluggish economic recovery has translated into flat or reduced giving for many churches, the trend continues of fewer churches reporting declines in giving.

The trend seems to indicate a stabilization of giving rather than widespread increases in giving. Through May 2011, 36 percent of churches saw giving the same as 2010. And through May 2012, 40 percent of churches saw giving the same as 2011.

The research did show that giving is coming back up for churches though:

  • 23 percent of churches had lower giving in 2010 than 2009
  • 19 percent of churches had lower giving in 2011 than in 2010
  • Through May 2012 giving for 15 percent of churches has been below 2011

Also, fewer churches are failing to meet budget expectations:

  • Through May 2011, giving for 27 percent of churches was below budget.
  • In 2012, only 22 percent of churches reported giving below budget

As you can tell, the worst point seems to have been fall of 2010 (a year AFTER the recession officially ended). It is not better, but it is getting a little better.

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