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December-January 2014

Roots: Growing
Deeper in Faith


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brown on green, A Regular column about finances


The Great Recession and Church Income Decline

According to recent surveys, church income declined from 2008-2010. Why did this happen? One reason certainly had to be the recession and its aftermath. The congregation may be full of faithful tithers, but when they are laid off, 10% of zero is still zero. In some cases, the unemployed receive income from unemployment benefits, but often diminished substantially. Others suffered pay cuts, which also reduces giving.

In addition, low inflation rates prevented Social Security raises. Many retirees could not increase tithing without an increase in income; therefore, this group of faithful givers could not offset declines elsewhere. While the Lord can move on the hearts of givers to do more, until unemployment begins to drop, it is hard to imagine church giving will increase from an economic standpoint.

It is also likely that some church members viewed their giving to the church as discretionary spending to be cut first during hard times rather than a biblical mandate. Many people made it a priority to save and build reserves during the recession. Perhaps some chose to take from God the money they saved.

The decline in giving was not severe, with the average drop in offerings around 3%. However 21% of the churches surveyed reported a drop of at least 10%.

This and other surveys of giving patterns raise some disturbing trends. Americans are generous people, and non-Christians in the U.S. give around 1% of their income to all charitable causes. Christians are three times as generous on average, giving 3% of their annual income. When you consider that a portion of Christian giving does not go to churches, this means Christians are missing the 10% standard for tithing by a long shot.

I like to think that the Free Will Baptist giving percentage is much higher. Since a giving survey has never been done of only Free Will Baptist churches, it is difficult to determine. Some anecdotal evidence suggests we may be doing better when comparing our denominational giving on a pro rata basis to other denominations. During a series of stewardship seminars for Free Will Baptists, noted author and church leader Stan Toler noted that, “Free Will Baptists are among the most generous people in the world, but they are seriously underperforming.”

Let’s live up to the first part of that statement by tithing at a minimum and supporting other ministries by giving beyond the tithe.


David Brown, CPA, became director of the Free Will Baptist Foundation in 2007. Send your questions to David at To learn how the Foundation can help you become a more effective giver, call 877-336-7575.



©2014 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists