Since the recession in 2008, many U.S. churches have seen a decline in giving. But the tide may be changing. The third annual State of the Plate constituency survey of 1,507 churches revealed that 43 percent of these churches experienced an uptick in giving this past year (up from 36 percent the previous year). Overall, 6 in 10 churches reported giving that was flat or up in 2010 — encouraging results given the nation’s stalled economy.

Smaller churches (under 249 people in worship attendance) saw giving declines (40 percent in churches under 100 people and 43 percent in churches with 100-249 people). The Pacific Coast states and Southeast states are leading the nation in church giving declines with 46 percent of churches experiencing a decrease in donations this past year.

Whether giving increases or decreases in 2011 will depend on a variety of factors, said Matt Branaugh, Director of Editorial for Christianity Today International‘s (CTI) Church Management Team, a survey co-sponsor. “It’s critical for church leaders to nurture relationships with people and show them how their giving directly helps the church’s mission and their surrounding community,” Branaugh added.

Though churches appear to be coming out of a downward cycle, a new government proposal to limit tax deductions on charitable giving is creating concern among church leaders. Ninety-one percent of the State of the Plate respondents expressed concern that such a change could create yet another obstacle to generous giving among churchgoers.

“Charities and churches have been hit hard by the economy the past three years. If the government’s plan to change the rules on charitable tax deductions goes through, giving to charities and churches, and the people they in turn assist, will likely be negatively affected,” said Brian Kluth, founder of MAXIMUM Generosity and the State of the Plate research.

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