The nation's slow economic recovery from a deep recession is showing up in the offering plates of Protestant churches in the U.S., according to a recent survey by LifeWay Research.
Although 56 percent of churches still report negative impact from the economy, 13 percent report a positive impact -- a jump of 4 percentage points from May 2012. When compared to the previous three years, churches are reporting less negative and more positive economic impact.
"The most recent recession revealed poor habits among Americans in terms of spending and lending," Scott McConnell, LifeWay Research director, said. "Surely churches have had to learn some of these same lessons."
Two-thirds of the churches surveyed report meeting or exceeding their 2014 budget. Nearly half (46 percent) are matching their budget, while 22 percent say receipts exceed their budget. Meanwhile, 29 percent of churches report receipts below budget.
When compared to 2013 giving, 74 percent of Protestant churches report offerings are at or above 2013 while 21 percent say receipts are lower than 2013.
The LifeWay survey also asked pastors about church size, region, pastor's age, educational level, ethnicity and evangelical/mainline affiliation. This information reveals where challenges still exist.
Pastors of churches with up to 99 regular attendees are more likely to report the economy continues to have a very negative impact on their churches (9 percent). For churches with at least 100 attendees, that response drops to about 3 percent.
Pastors in the Northeast report very negatively about the economy (10 percent), as do pastors nationwide who are 55 years or older (16 percent), and African-American pastors (12 percent).
The pastor's education level also gave some indication of financial health. Pastors with a master's degree (5 percent) are less likely to select "very negatively" compared to pastors with no college degree (10 percent).
"The current slow-growth economy does not allow individuals, businesses, or churches to slip into poor financial habits that may have been present seven or eight years ago," McConnell said. "Everyone must be innovative in how efficient and productive each of their activities is."
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