Church planters are more likely than the average U.S. adult to feel financial strain, according to a Barna Group study.

While U.S. church plants, particularly in urban areas, have increased significantly in the last 20 years, nearly a third (32 percent) of church planters report financial challenges.

By comparison, only 20 percent of all U.S. adults report experiencing financial strains.

“Three out of five [church planters] live on a household income lower than the national average,” the report noted. “Thirty-nine percent bring in between $35,000 and $50,000 per year, while one in five reports an annual household income of less than $35,000 (21 percent). In most states, an income of $31,525 or less qualifies a family for food stamps.”

The financial challenges faced by church planters has caused 33 percent to consider quitting this form of ministry, and 35 percent reported marital tension related to finances.

Among those making $35,000 or less annually, 47 percent said they have considered quitting and 48 percent noted marriage issues tied to income.

Many church starts are taking place in urban areas (42 percent) where church planters are most likely to report financial strain due to higher costs for facilities and housing.

In large urban cities, 25 percent of planters feel they are merely surviving financially, while 14 percent say they are struggling.

In small to medium urban areas, only 9 percent feel they are surviving, but 39 percent report that they are struggling.

“We see in this data a call to action to denominations and planting networks to provide greater financial support to startup leaders – especially those in urban neighborhoods,” said Brooke Hempell, vice president of research at Barna Group and director of the study.

“If we want planters to engage a community with the gospel, we should free them up financially and administratively to do so. It is not sustainable for the spiritual leaders of new faith communities to live at or below the poverty line or to take on personal debt to cover everyday living expenses. If we believe in the work they are doing, we must commit more financial resources to their success.”

The full report is available here.

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