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New empty tomb study: Long-term church giving, membership declines don’t erase potential for good

Thursday, October 13, 2016  
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Although declines in membership and giving continue, a new study concludes church members continue to control resources that have the power and potential to do good

 

Long-term declines in church member giving and membership continued in 2014.

But the new study from empty tomb, inc., documenting these trends, says that these declines have not yet erased the church’s potential for good.

The State of Church Giving through 2014: Speaking Truth to Power (October 2016) updates church numbers through 2014, the latest data year available.

Church member giving declined as a percent of income, from 2013 to 2014, the study found.

Overall, member giving as a percent of income declined 28%, from 3.02% in 1968 to 2.16% in 2014.

For a set of 36 communions, membership as a percent of population also declined over the 1968 to 2014 period. This set included some of the fastest growing denominations and the Roman Catholic Church. In 1968, the group represented 45% of U.S. population, compared to 35% in 2014.

The new study also reviews church declines observed by other researchers.

However, the authors, John and Sylvia Ronsvalle, are convinced that the church in the U.S. still has potential to accomplish great good.

Even with the declines over time, they note, the historically Christian church in the U.S. is one of the, if not the, largest identity groups in the U.S. Further, they estimate that church people in the U.S. control the equivalent of the third largest Gross Domestic Product in the world.

The State of Church Giving through 2014 concludes that this power for good has not been tapped for one major reason. Church leaders have not understood the impact of the affluence that spread throughout the U.S., as well as some other societies, especially since World War II.

Without guidance, church members have turned inward, both individually and in their congregations. The declines in giving and membership, the authors propose, are a result.

As one example of the good that could still be accomplished by the church in the U.S., the new book considers the gap between goals set to reduce the global Under-5 Mortality Rate and the actual rate of death among children under five years of age. Although progress has been made, the goals set twice by world leaders, first in 1990 for 2000, and again in 2000 for 2015, were not met either time.

Many church institutions have frontline delivery systems in global areas with high child mortality rates. The new book proposes that church leaders could mobilize more resources through their own channels in order to make an impact on this recognized need of reducing the child-death rate in countries having difficulty meeting the goals.

To reverse the negative trends in church member giving and membership, and to tap more of the potential for good among church members, the new book summarizes the apostle Paul’s teaching in Acts 26:20. That is, church leaders and members should repent and mobilize.

In addition to the 1968 to 2014 analyses, the new book also has chapters that:

– consider church member giving by two theological subgroups.

– review giving and membership in 11 denominations for the period 1921-2014.

– describe trends in giving and membership, past and future.

– calculate potential church giving levels, in general and by various church populations.

– analyze Americans’ charitable giving information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditure Survey 2014.

The State of Church Giving through 2014: Speaking Truth to Power is the 26th edition in the series. Published by empty tomb, inc., the book is to be released on October 14, 2016. The new book should be available through Internet bookstores, and can be purchased directly from .

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Contact

Sylvia Ronsvalle
research@emptytomb.org


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