Pastors and churches continue to deal with the struggling economy

LifeWay News has released a story about the continuing struggles churches and pastors have in this slow economy. Most would probably have guessed it to be this way.

Below is the full text of the story with graphics from LifeWay Research.

Survey: Slow economy continues to weigh on pastors

By Carol Pipes

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Pastors say the economy continues to have a negative impact on their churches despite stabilized giving, according to a survey by LifeWay Research.

The survey of 1,000 Protestant pastors asked respondents “how is the economy impacting your church?” Almost two-thirds (64 percent) responded negatively, with 56 percent indicating somewhat negatively and 8 percent very negatively. One quarter of the pastors surveyed said, “the economy has had no impact on my church,” while 9 percent indicated a positive impact on their churches.

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“Pastor views on the economy are similar to many economic outlook surveys,” said Scott McConnell, director of LifeWay Research. “We weren’t surprised the current perspective of economic impact on churches is predominantly negative.”

However, there is some good news. LifeWay Research found that while the sluggish economic recovery has translated into flat or reduced giving for many churches, the trend continues of fewer churches reporting declines in giving.

• 23 percent of churches had lower giving in 2010 than 2009
• 19 percent of churches had lower giving in 2011 than in 2010
• Through May 2012 giving for 15 percent of churches has been below 2011

Similarly, fewer churches are failing to meet budget expectations. Through May 2011, giving for 27 percent of churches was below budget. At the same time in 2012, only 22 percent of churches reported giving below budget—a 5 percent decrease from the year before.
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The trend seems to indicate a stabilization of giving rather than widespread increases in giving. Through May 2011, 36 percent of churches saw giving the same as 2010. And through May 2012, 40 percent of churches saw giving the same as 2011.

“Many people refer to the ‘new normal’ of tighter consumer spending, but it appears there has been no adjustment in economic expectations,” said McConnell. “Pastors and Americans in general are still disappointed when they experience a lack of consistent or increasing growth.”

According to the survey, a larger percentage of pastors serving in large cities and the suburbs (72 percent in both areas) cited a negative impact on their church from the economy in 2012 than those serving in small cities (63 percent) and rural areas (61 percent).

Also, a higher percentage of pastors in the West (71 percent) said the current state of the economy was having a negative impact on their churches compared to churches in the Northeast, South and Midwest (all at 63 percent).

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Methodology: The telephone survey, conducted in May 2012, sampled 1,000 randomly selected Protestant pastors. The sample provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error does not exceed +3.2 percent. Margins of error are higher in subgroups. Comparisons are also made to the following telephone surveys using the same methodology: 1,000 pastors conducted March 1-9, 2010; 1,002 pastors conducted January 17-27, 2011; 1,000 pastors conducted May 18-25, 2011.

Carol Pipes is editorial manager for the LifeWay Communications Team.

Marty Duren

Just a guy writing some things.

  • “Many people refer to the ‘new normal’ of tighter consumer spending, but it appears there has been no adjustment in economic expectations,” said McConnell. “Pastors and Americans in general are still disappointed when they experience a lack of consistent or increasing growth.”

    I think that is the real issue. Explosive growth is expected as the norm now. If we don’t have it, we think that something is wrong. It is easier to blame the economy on not being in a place to build that building or do that project or keep growing – than it is to look at other factors. It is interesting that even though our needs are being met, we are disatisfied because we are not seeing strong growth. Maybe our expectations are the problem and maybe that is partly why we are in the economic mess we are in?