by Kent Vincent and Greg Gibbs
It depends on who you talk to. And it depends on a few other critical factors.
We have talked to pastors whose giving is up which in mid to late 2020 seemed to be a reported trend. We have also talked to senior leaders of churches whose giving is down and are discouraged because all they heard were the glowing reports that “giving is up in American churches." This statement can be discouraging if your church is not experiencing this.
Our aim is to identify or define some of the reality of giving right now and offer hope and encouragement to any church in any environment.
As Auxano Generosity consultants, we have friendships with church leaders around the country. As we have been checking in with them, we hear such a variety of responses on church giving, we are reticent to make sweeping generalizations about “giving during the pandemic."
So far, we believe that churches fall into a few categories – and even these we hold as a perspective to consider not a comprehensive declaration about church giving.
- Churches that were digitally savvy before COVID
- Churches that are missional, active and not Sunday-centric
- Churches that had little to no missional activity
- Churches that survive because of a small group of big givers
Digital Savvy Churches
These are the churches that did not have to scramble to get both digital worship services and digital giving “in play” when everything froze last March. These churches were able to focus on member care and other initiatives almost right way where other churches entered a frenzied attempt to decide, deploy, fund and service an aspect of church life that was brand new. If you are a church that was digitally prepared, you had a higher likelihood of surviving financially through the last year.
Churches on Mission
Maybe your church was among many that had already shifted energy and focus to the work of God outside the gathered church in worship. In other words, your members were active and involved in serving the community through both ministries of the church as well as other organizations doing the work of Christ in the neighborhood and the world. For these churches, the givers stayed motivated (or even saw more reason to give) as the activities their church was involved with needed to continue. “We cannot let this die or decrease” was their cry because of the sense that a lot of needs were being met through the mission of their church.
Low Missional Activity Churches
When churches are Sunday-Centric, they use most of their energy – time, resources, staff, volunteers, etc. – on the central meeting day and time: Sunday morning. In some ways, there is nothing wrong with this common practice. But in other ways, it shows that many churches are behind the curve in developing and deploying disciples into their community. Without a mission and focus outside the walls of the church, 2020 became a very discouraging year for members of these churches.
Churches With a Few Faithful Givers
Our observation of church giving trends corroborates with others who see a slip from the 80/20 rule to more of a 90/10 reality. In other words, it seems that many churches have 90% of their giving coming from 10% of the households. As much as we coach churches to disciple and grow generosity in all of their people, this out-of-balance reality actually helped a number of churches survive so far through the pandemic. There are often a small group of families that have the financial ability to sustain the church and are often untouched by the economic instability that many of us experience.
For some, this is reassurance that some of the decisions you made prior to the global pandemic were used by God over this challenging stretch that is entering year two. For others, it may be an encouragement to reset some of the approach to church ministry that will allow for a more vibrant future.
We are advocates for church leaders who are facing a tricky time in ministry. And we are not suggesting that God is only using churches that have increased giving. After all, we think money is a tool to support the primary mission of the church: making disciples. But if there are adjustments to be made to create a flow of generosity that fuels that mission, we are excited to serve the Church. This has been quite a chapter of the history of many of our churches and we believe that God will use it to refine all of us.
Auxano's Director of Generosity Greg Gibbs is hosting the June Future Casting Webinar, on the topic of Generous Jesus People.
There is a way for churches to custom design their approach to developing generous disciples. During the webinar, Greg will solve the problem of both the felt need (more money) and the real need (a discipleship-oriented eco-system for creating generosity in the lives of people at our church).
Join Greg Thursday, June 17 at 11:00 a.m. EDT/10:00 a.m. CDT for a clear and user-friendly approach to developing a culture of generosity, not begging for money.