Lifeway Research has recently contributed to the commentary on stewardship and generosity with a report that cites research conducted by the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. The report echos what others have been stating all summer, chiefly that the pool of givers to religious organizations is dwindling.
How is it, then, that in the face of this research, churches claim that their giving remained static or even strong during the COVID-19 pandemic? From the churches I’ve reviewed in the last several months, the answer is simple. Those who were top givers in the church (at least $10,000 per year) increased their giving, while those who gave minimally (no more than $1,000 per year) decreased their support. In other words, the stockholders and key investors in the ministry carried the load.
The concern, for me anyway, is that top givers will experience giving fatigue in the coming year. Churches that are investing all of their energy in recovering attendees to in person worship need to focus on discipling and developing their givers as well. We may not see the full financial impact of COVID on churches for several more months. Therefore, church leaders cannot make the assumption that their congregation’s giving is certain.