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A “New Normal” in Church Budgets

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A recent survey of Lifeway Research (an arm of the Southern Baptist denomination) found that churches and pastors are facing a “new normal” in their church finances.  On the one hand the financial news is pretty good for most churches, but outside demands (and fear) are keeping most churches very cautious about their budgets. 

The good news is that 66% of churches surveyed met or exceeded their budgets last year. Additionally, 75% said that their offerings so far this year are about the same or better than they were in 2010.  (On average, churches saw a 2% increase). 

Interestingly, (at least to me) “the survey also revealed that pastors identifying themselves as mainline churches (45 percent) are more likely to have increased offerings than those considering themselves as evangelical (38 percent).”

Church size plays a role in improved finances.  When asked if they had increased offerings from 2010 churches fell into pretty clear categories according to size:

 

Churches reporting increased income over 2010 grouped by average attendance:

  • 250 or more –47%
  • 100-249 -49%
  • 50-99-34%
  • 49 or less –23%

On the other hand, outside demands, and increased costs of products and services continue to place a burden on churches.  Because of that, and because of fear of another financial hit (like a double-dip recession), churches are delaying major purchases, delaying building projects, holding off staff hiring, forgoing staff raises and in some cases continuing to cut staff pay.

In what (in my prejudiced view) is a positive sign, churches are looking within to have their church members do activities that otherwise they might have previously hired out. 

While we can have differing opinions about the economic future of our country, for better or for worse, it appears that churches are settling for the long haul of a “new normal.”

You can find an article about this survey here.

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