By Cynthia Woolever
We believe there is convincing evidence for congregations to conduct an effective annual stewardship campaign (see Secrets to a Full Collection Plate, Part 1). Now, we’re shifting our focus a bit—what does the average person in the pew say about his or her giving habits? About 65,000 worshipers in a national random sample of congregations—representative of all regions and faith traditions—gave us some surprising answers.
Secret # 2: Ask for Percentage Giving? We asked worshipers about their church financial contributions. Do they give a percentage of their income regularly, a small amount when they attend services, or nothing at all? In the typical congregation, one in four worshipers give 10% or more of their income to the church. This percentage is critical. A key factor that distinguishes congregations is the percentage of worshipers who give 10% or more of their income to the church.
Conservative Protestant churches tend to be smaller than others are, yet more of their worshipers make this powerful financial commitment—four out of ten worshipers in such churches regularly give 10% or more of their income. Far fewer give at that level in mainline Protestant and Catholic parishes. The largest group of mainline Protestant worshipers give between 5 and 9% of their income. Three in ten Catholic worshipers give less than 5% of their income (see the details in the table below).
Successful stewardship campaigns focus on the need for the giver to give rather than on the church’s budget gaps. An effective financial campaign asks every worshiper or household to grow in their annual donation by (a) giving a percentage of their income, and (b) growing their current gift by 1% in the coming year. (See Nelson Searcy and Jennifer Dykes Henson’s book, Maximize: How to Develop Extravagant Givers in Your Church, for many other helpful ideas (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2010).)
Many excellent resources are available online that suggest other effective stewardship strategies. For example, see the Lewis Center Leadership Center resource, “50 Ways to Improve Your Annual Stewardship Campaign.”
And, another helpful resource is “Church Effectiveness Nuggets, Vol. 5: How to Increase Financial Stewardship.”
What’s the best advice? Encourage worshipers to grow spiritually and financially—one is impossible without the other.