As the economy rebounds it appears that contributions to churches are increasing as well. According to 4th annual “State of the Plate” survey , 51% of churches last year saw an increase in church giving, up from 43% in 2010 and 36% in 2009. That should make all churches rejoice. However, if you look deeper into this report, we see that we shouldn’t celebrate just yet.
This study shows increase support of churches, but concerns arise from which churches see an increase in giving:
The increase seen in 2011 was most noticeable in the most mega of megachurches: 86 percent of churches with more than 10,000 congregants saw an greatest rise in giving, compared to 39 percent of churches with fewer than 100 people saw an increase.
Still, nearly one-third (32 percent) of churches said giving was down in 2011 — although a smaller share than the 39 percent of churches that reported a decline two years ago, according to the survey.
This means that mega churches, which tend to be populated by affluent Christians, saw a rebound in giving compared to smaller churches, which tend to be populated by less affluent churches goers. This followers the pattern in our society: the rich are getting richer, and the poor are becoming poorer. Even in churches, we see an income and giving gap. As the economy rebounded for the more wealthy, the lower-income segment of the population continues to struggle. How can a wealthy mega church continue to pump money into their large buildings and staffs when their neighbors are suffering to survive?
Not only is the income and class gap growing in our culture, but it seems to be widening in our churches. That also equates to a negative impact on evangelism and outreach with young people.
If the Millennial generation is deeply concerned about issues of injustice, poverty, and the poor then we will see them leave or not come to church at all. Millennials have expressed their commitment to organizations who put resources into the needy and poor rather than buildings or large church staffs – not in shallow expressions of faith. Young people want to see our churches and organizations diverse in the way of their ethnic and social make up. If churches do not accept this diversity and commitment to the lowly, then churches risk losing or attracting young people.
This income gap is just another writing on the wall about the future of our churches. While it is great that the rebound in the recession is helping churches, it also shows us how we will continue to struggle to connect with young people if we do not make our churches places of service rather than places of self-service.