Has church tithing really hit a record low in America? Considering the ongoing changes in terms of church attendance and continued economic struggles, the answer is "yes."
Researchers have been exploring the impact that secularism's rise and gainful precedence is having on faith communities, the potential decline of personal religious belief, and other associated issues.
In September, we highlighted one study, which found that, from 2000 until 2010, there were steep drops in both financial health and attendance at weekly church services. Additionally, a separate study indicates that both religious beliefs and behaviors are on the decline.
Other research we've looked at seems to indicate, too, that working-class Americans who do not have a college degree are abandoning church faster than their more educated counterparts (an oddity, considering that many critics have said that increased education makes individuals steer away from faith systems).
All of this considered, it may not be too surprising that tithing is hitting an all-time low. It's essentially like a domino effect: People don't embrace faith as much, so they inevitably stop attending church regularly. Then, the monies that are generally collected in the offering plate also decline. It's a natural progression.
But it's not solely the decline in faith and church attendance that's driving these issues (and some would even argue that faith is by no means dying rapidly). Let's also remember that the recession, which has left countless Americans without employment, also plays into the factors impacting church income.
A new report, entitled, "The State of Church Giving Through 2009," was released last week by Empty Tomb, Inc., a Christian research and service group. One of the study's findings is that churches are giving less to charities and seminary training than they were in 1968 (when the organization produced its first report).
In fact, the Christian Post writes that contemporary funds "hit new lows" when compared to the initial report. Considering the economy, among other likely factors, the study indicated that tithing as a percentage of income, giving was at its lowest level in four decades.
Overall, churchgoers gave 2.38 percent of their income in 2009, down from 2.43 percent in 2008. The study looked at evangelical, Lutheran, Presbyterian and Episcopalian churches, among others.
In addition to the reduced rates, which certainly impact churches and communities, alike, the authors also found that only .34 percent of the income was being used toward outside charity work, with over two percent being spent internally.
Sylvia Ronsvalle, Empty Tomb’s executive vice president, told Religion News Service, “Churches on the whole are continuing to spend more on current members and less on the larger mission of the church and cutting back on missionaries."
Ronsvalle says that this decline in outside giving is having devastating affects on poverty alleviation and other humanitarian services. If parishioners were willing to give just cents more per day, she says, the situation would be very different.
“These babies do not have to be dying, and yet nobody is mobilized at a scale that would achieve that solution,” she said. “Contempt for death isn’t the way to expect a Christian to live their life. We ought to be sacrificing, we ought to do everything in our power to make sure everyone that wants a Bible can have one.”
With continued economic strain taking the nation -- and the world -- by storm, it's possible that many of the issues that churches work so diligently to alleviate (poverty and crime, among others) will be increasing in their fervency.
Likewise, as churchgoers remain out of work and with less pay, the amount of money that houses of worship take in will naturally be lower in nature. This is a vicious cycle that will continue as long as the economy chugs along.
The other issues -- a decreased church attendance and an increase in secularism -- are tougher to remedy. Churches, which rely on tithing income for their survival and their community work, may need to consider revamping their methods.
Perhaps spending more on external issues and less on the internal workings of congregations would be a positive foot forward in meeting increased community and global missional needs.
(H/T: The Christian Post)