Quiz: How to fill the collection plate
Nurturing cheerful givers is more challenging than ever during an economic downturn. New research provides important insights that could boost the financial and spiritual health of congregations. Take our quiz to test your knowledge of church giving trends.
Forget, for the moment, pledge cards, electronic payment plans, adding ATM machines out front or any of several other formal efforts to increase congregational giving.
The No. 1 reason motivating many generous givers is a sense of gratitude for God’s love and goodness, new research indicates. In one national survey, more than nine in 10 worshippers in high-giving congregations said they are influenced by an attitude of gratitude, with 57 percent saying it is a major influence. In contrast, fewer than four in 10 worshippers in low-giving congregations cited God’s love as a major influence.
The 2008-2009 wave of the U.S. Congregational Life Survey also found that worshippers who give at least 5 percent of their net income to their congregation are more likely than average attenders to report a strong sense of belonging to their church and are more active in Bible study and prayer groups and congregational decision making. These new data were presented at recent joint meeting of the Religious Research Association and the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion.
Increasing giving is more challenging in these tough economic times. Some 57 percent of congregations responding to the 2010 Faith Communities Today survey reported that their income declined a little or a lot during the recession.
The individuals who contribute some 90 percent of congregational income also are unsettled. In the latest wave of the Congregational Life Survey, nearly three-quarters of worshippers said they worry about their finances.
But religious leaders seeking to boost collections have the benefit of a growing body of research on church giving. At the recent joint meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion and the Religious Research Association in Milwaukee, researchers Deborah Bruce, Cynthia Woolever, Sheila Strobel Smith and Jack Marcum each presented findings from the Congregational Life Survey offering insights into beliefs and practices associated with higher church giving.