Q & A: The state of church giving

Tim Abare, president of eChurchGiving, talks about what has (and hasn’t!) changed when it comes to generosity.

Compare the state of church giving 20 years ago to today. What has changed?

There are several changes: Years ago, I had lunch with researcher George Barna as he talked about the 1.5 million people who were leaving churches and forming spiritual mini-movements. Some refer to it as the “grazing effect” meaning people are worshipping on their own, via podcasts, home churches, cause-driven events, and more.

This speaks to a whole new movement that’s going on outside of the four walls of the church; statistics show about 6 million people meet weekly in small groups, but they don’t attend worship services.

This is just of several great articles from “Simplifying Giving,” an eBook from Church Executive and Pushpay. Download the eBook — at no cost — here.

As many churches have grappled with being seeker-sensitive, there has been a steady decline in pastoral teaching about biblical mandates to give.

Other changes are pretty obvious — technological advances and economics ups and downs, in particular. Today, only 2.4 percent of income is given to the church, compared to 3.1 percent in 1968. And, churches have seen four years of consecutive declines in giving. That hasn’t happened since the Great Depression.

Since the Great Recession, many churches are focused mostly on maintaining (not growing) giving.

Meanwhile, the U.S. population has grown by 48 million people in the past 20 years. So, it’s clear that the church isn’t keeping up.

So, we know what has changed. What has stayed the same?

There’s always going to be a remnant of loyal, grateful people who are naturally and  intentionally generous.

Also: Then and now, people give when there’s a sense of mission, purpose, cause and heart connection. That was true 100 years ago. It was true 20 years ago. It’s still true.

Because it’s app-based, our giving platform accommodates spontaneous, in-the-moment generosity. In fact, our data shows that 40 percent of people who give using Pushpay do so on days other than Sunday.

It’s been said that about 20 percent of a typical church’s membership gives the majority of the gifts. Is that accurate?

As far as available data indicates, yes. Generally, 20 percent of members provide 50 percent to 80 percent of total giving in churches. As our team talks with thousands of churches, those figures hold consistent, with small variations: In smaller churches, the percentage of giving provided by that 20 percent of members tends to be a little higher. It’s a bit lower in larger churches.

Overall, right now, more churches are reducing program offerings due to lack of funding versus expanding those offerings.

TakIMG_2423ing the church as a whole, do you believe technology has enabled a more generous church giving culture?

Yes. It’s simple: To maintain or increase giving, there needs to be different options to engage the giver. There’s always going to be envelope / collection basket people, EFT people, those who prefer online giving, and others who like kiosk giving. However, mobile giving represents an unprecedented opportunity to increase giving and generosity. Over and over again, our church partners see increases in their offerings from people who have engaged with our mobile app that allows for giving in 10 seconds.

With the unmatched ability to give spontaneously from their smartphone, both new and previously intermittent givers are able to give easily in the ‘moment’.

We just want to make giving simple. All of our technological development is geared towards making it easier to give. There are enough challenges to giving, and we’re compelled to eradicate as many as possible. When someone feels moved to give, they shouldn’t be obstructed by process.

When Pushpay’s 10-second mobile-giving platform was designed, what major hurdles to giving was it modeled to overcome?

It all began when Eliot Crowther, Pushpay’s co-founder and director, was at a church service. The pastor asked for an offering. As a 20-something, Eliot didn’t carry cash or checks, and he didn’t want to write down his credit card information. (Consider recent the Target and Wal-Mart data breaches.)

He asked a key question: Why couldn’t I — in the moment — give as I was compelled to do?

Our mobile giving app model has unquestionably proven itself. For example, at a recent denominational conference, people were asked to give by cash, check, or using Pushpay’s revolutionary platform. The result was an increase in the offering over the year before of 84 percent! The only difference was Pushpay!

At a different and subsequent denominational conference, the offering doubled.

One of the platform’s biggest selling points is the fact that people can give in less than 10 seconds. A person only needs to enter their details once during a first gift or registration — a process that normally takes about 45 seconds. From that point forward, they’re able to download the app, have all their details pre-populated, and be ready to give in 10 seconds wherever or whenever they choose.

So, it’s simple.

And, because it’s app-based, it accommodates spontaneous, in-the-moment generosity. In fact, our data shows that 40 percent of people who give using Pushpay do so on days other than Sunday.

The platform’s design also cuts down on processing requirements, which benefits church staff members. What I mean by that is, Pushpay integrates with church databases so that gifts can be easily reconciled with their giving profiles, making accounting easier for church administrators.

Are there any other takeaways about the state of church giving you’d like to share?

I want to talk a little bit about giving habits. One thing hasn’t changed, and won’t: People give when they see God doing incredible things with their gifts. That drives a culture of generosity.

We want to catalyze that generosity.

Tim Abare is president of eChurchGiving in Redmond, WA. He has served the church for more than three decades in senior leadership, is the founder of the Epoch Awards, and serves as a board member for a handful of non-profit organizations. Under his leadership, the team at eChurch is rapidly expanding the Pushpay opportunity to churches across America and partnering with church leaders to ensure simple engagement and adoption of the digital giving process.




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