Protestant churches in the U.S. are seeing their finances stabilize after a volatile 2020, according to data published on Nov. 16 by LifeWay Research.
Comparing financial support in 2020 to that of 2021, only 22% of pastors reported that giving levels had declined. The majority (73%) said income was either stable (42%) or had increased (31%) this year, with the remaining 4% unsure.
When asked about income compared to budgeted expectations, a majority (70%) said giving was either “about what we budgeted” (48%) or “higher than budgeted” (22%). By comparison, 27% said income was “lower than budgeted” and 2% were not sure.
Digging deeper on the level of giving differences from last year to this year, the report found that 47% of offerings were the same, while 27% were above and 21% below.
Of the 27% above 2020 levels, 9% of that total was an increase of 1-9%, 15% an increase of 10-24% and 3% an increase of 25% or more.
Of the 21% below last year, 3% was a decrease of 1-9%, 11% a decrease of 10-24% and 7% a decrease of 25% or more.
“We see great improvement in the number of churches with a downward trend in giving,” Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research, said in a press release. “A year ago, more than a third of churches had seen giving decline, and 13 percentage points fewer say so today. Some of those churches may still be working to get back to 2019 levels, but the number with declining income is back around the historic norm.”
When asked about how they viewed the economy’s impact on their congregation, a plurality (49%) said “no impact,” 37% said “somewhat negatively” (34%) or “very negatively” (3%), and 11% said “somewhat positively” (8%) or “very positively” (3%).
The margin of error is plus-or-minus 3.2%. The full report is available here.