United Methodist Bishop and preacher, William Willimon reported on a new study of giving in American churches, Passing the Plate: Why American Christians Don't Give Away More Money (Oxford University Press 2008), in his weblog (A Peculiar Prophet).
Here's a taste of his April 27, 2009 post:
The poor widow who gave out of her poverty rather than her wealth (Mark 12:42) and the rich young ruler (Luke 18:18-30) who refused to give anything out of his both typify American church giving. Sociologists Christian Smith, Michael Emerson, and Patricia Snell have recently published a study on Christian stewardship, Passing the Plate (Oxford University Press). Their findings are a call to action. More than one out of four American Protestants give away no money to their churches. Evangelical Christians tend to be the most generous (giving the lie to the misconception that liberal Christians are more liberal in their concern for the less fortunate), but even their giving is nothing to brag about. Thirty-six percent of the Evangelicals report that they give away less than two percent of their income. Only about 27 percent tithe.
Passing the Plate’s researchers estimate that American Christians who say their faith is very important to them and who attend church at least twice a month earn more that $2.5 trillion dollars every year. If these Christians gave away 10 percent of their after-tax earnings, they would add a whopping $46 billion to ministry around the world.
Tithing is practiced by few. The median annual giving for an American Christian is about $200, just over half a percent of after-tax income. 5 percent of American Christians provide 60 percent of the money churches and religious groups use to operate. “A small group of truly generous Christian givers,” say Passing the Plate’s authors, “are essentially ‘covering’ for the vast majority of Christians who give nothing or quite little.”
Most Methodist preachers already know that America’s biggest givers –as a percentage of their income—are its lowest income earners. Americans earning less than $10,000 gave 2.3 percent of their income to churches. Those who earn $70,000 or more gave only 1.2 percent.
Read the entire essay here.