Types of organizations and causes personally supported by clergy donations in the last year, by denominational group…

Clergy attitudes on giving and tithing, by denominational group…

Clergy and laity disagree about

tithing and charitable giving

(Original release date:  March 2, 2006)  Research results released in the March/April edition of Facts & Trends magazine show most Protestant ministers believe Christians are supposed to tithe – or give 10 percent of their income – to their local church.  Unfortunately for these ministers and churches, most people in the pews of the local church do not agree with them.

 

Two studies were conducted by Grey Matter Research (formerly Ellison Research) of  Phoenix, Arizona.  One was a representative sample of 811 Protestant church ministers nationwide, and the other was a companion survey of 1,184 people who attend Protestant churches at least once a month.

 

In the study, 56 percent of all clergy say Christians are under a biblical mandate to tithe 10 percent of their income to the local church, while another 12 percent feel Christians are under this 10 percent mandate, but the gifts do not necessarily have to go to the local church.  Twenty percent believe there is a biblical mandate to give, but not any specific amount or percentage.

 

However, among the people who attend Protestant churches, only 36 percent feel there is a biblical command to tithe 10 percent to their local church, while another 23 percent believe there is a biblical mandate to tithe, but not necessarily to the local church.  Twenty-seven percent feel the Bible commands Christians to give, but not a set proportion or amount, while 10 percent believe Christians are under no mandate to give anything.

 

Among both clergy and laity, Pentecostals, Southern Baptists, and people from other Baptist denominations are the ones most likely to believe in tithing to the local church, while Presbyterians, Methodists, and Lutherans are the denominational groups least likely to hold this opinion.

 

Among people who do believe in tithing (whether to the local church specifically or to any type of organization), an ongoing debate is whether the 10 percent should be figured on gross income or on net income (after taxes).  Churchgoers who believe in tithing are equally split over this, with 48 percent believing the tithe should be figured on net income, and 52 percent saying it should be on gross income.  Clergy fall much more into the “gross income” camp (72 percent, versus 28 percent who believe the tithe should be calculated on net income).

 

The study also found that most people – both clergy and laity – believe that Christians’ giving does not have to be limited to religious causes or organizations.  Just 3 percent of clergy and 1 percent of laity feel that Christians should only support Christian causes.  Three out of ten clergy and one out of ten churchgoers feel Christians should give preference to Christian causes or organizations in their giving, and another third of each group feel Christians should support Christian causes when they can, but should be free to support non-religious organizations when there is no religious equivalent (such as cancer research or animal welfare).

 

One-third of all clergy, and a majority of all churchgoers (55 percent), feel Christians should be free to support any type of cause or organization, regardless of whether it has a religious connection.

 

In fact, ministers and laity are equally likely to have supported a non-religious cause or organization in the last year.  Fifty-seven percent of each group have given money to an organization with no religious connections in the last 12 months.

 

Finally, the studies evaluated what types of causes and organizations church leaders and churchgoers have actually supported through donations in the last 12 months.

 

With the plethora of natural disasters over the last year, it’s probably no surprise that the number one category for both laity and ministers is disaster relief.  Eight out of ten ministers and 54 percent of laity have personally supported an organization working in disaster relief in the last year.

 

Among pastors, there is a clear hierarchy of causes.  After disaster relief come three others that are very popular:  evangelism (66 percent), denominational causes or programs (51 percent), and specific schools, colleges, or universities (49 percent).  Eight other types of causes or organizations have received donations from between one-fifth and one-third of all pastors:  literature (such as Bibles and tracts), international poverty relief and development, domestic poverty relief and development, health (such as medical research and hospitals), educational causes, broadcast stations or ministries, political causes or organizations, and social/moral causes (such as pornography, supporting or opposing abortion).

 

Five other types of causes are less popular among clergy, finding financial support from fewer than 20 percent:  individual political candidates, veterans’ causes, cultural (such as museums or the opera), the environment, and animal welfare.

 

There are substantial differences between what evangelical and mainline Protestant ministers support out of their own pockets.  Evangelicals are more likely than mainline ministers to contribute to evangelism, literature, and social/moral issues.  Mainline Protestants are more likely than evangelicals to have supported disaster relief, denominational programs, specific schools, international and domestic poverty relief, health, education, the environment, and cultural issues.

 

The people in the pews, on average, have supported fewer causes outside of their own church over the past year than have their church leaders.  In fact, disaster relief is the only cause to have received donations from a majority of Protestants who attend church.  Second to disaster relief among laity is evangelism (33 percent), followed by veterans’ causes, denominational programs, health, and educational causes (all supported by 20 percent or more in the past year).

 

Virtually all clergy in this study have financially supported their own church in the past year.  And for the typical churchgoer, a majority of the money they give does go to their local church.  On average, Protestants estimate 69 percent of their giving in the last year went to their church, while 31 percent went to organizations outside of their church.

 

Two percent of all clergy and 16 percent of all churchgoers say they have not financially contributed to any organizations (outside of their local church) in the last year.

 

Ron Sellers, president of Grey Matter Research, noted the irony in some of the findings.  “What’s really sad is that six out of ten churchgoers told us they believe the Bible commands them to tithe 10 percent or more of their incomes, yet other studies have consistently shown that under one out of ten actually do that,” Sellers said.  “In other words, at least half of all Protestants are clear on what they believe they’re supposed to be giving, but consistently don’t give it.”

 

Sellers also noted that Christian organizations and ministries need to understand that many religious people are supporting non-religious organizations.  “When we work with individual charitable organizations, there’s often an assumption that Christians support Christian ministries over non-religious organizations,” he said.  “This study conclusively shows that assumption to be false, and that in fact over half of all Protestant churchgoers don’t even give any preference to Christian organizations in their giving decisions.  It’s critical that Christian organizations really understand this about their target market,” Sellers stated.

 

Study Details:

Both studies were conducted by Grey Matter Research (formerly Ellison Research), a marketing research company located in Phoenix, Arizona.  The sample of 802 Protestant ministers included only those who are actively leading churches.  The study’s total sample is accurate to within ±3.3 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level with a 50 percent response distribution.  The sample of 1,184 people who attend a Protestant church once a month or more is accurate to within ±2.7 percentage points under the same parameters.

 

Both studies were conducted in all 50 states, using a representative sample of pastors and laity from all Protestant denominations.  Respondents’ gender, age, geography, church size, and denomination were carefully tracked to ensure appropriate representation and accuracy.

If charity cost nothing, the world would be full of philanthropists.

Jewish proverb

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Laity attitudes on giving and tithing, by denominational group…

Types of organizations and causes personally supported by laity donations in the last year, by denominational group…

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Attitudes on Tithing/Giving

 

All

Southern Baptist

Other Baptist

 

Methodist

 

Lutheran

 

Pentecostal

 

Presbyterian

All  Others

What the Bible says:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   Biblical mandate to tithe

   10% to the local church

 

56%

 

76%

 

60%

 

40%

 

8%

 

92%

 

31%

 

39%

   Biblical mandate to tithe

   10%, but not necessarily

   to the local church

 

 

12

 

 

4

 

 

3

 

 

24

 

 

20

 

 

3

 

 

30

 

 

17

   Biblical mandate to give, but not

   a set proportion (such as 10%)

 

20

 

12

 

20

 

23

 

43

 

3

 

22

 

31

   no Biblical mandate to give at all

1

1

--

--

7

2

5

1

   some other belief about giving/tithing

10

7

16

13

23

--

13

11

How tithing is figured (among

those with an opinion):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   10% of net income

28

18

20

27

40

34

33

31

   10% of gross income

72

82

80

73

60

66

67

69

Views about giving:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   Christians should support

   only Christian causes

 

3

 

6

 

3

 

--

 

--

 

--

 

2

 

4

   Christians should give preference to

   Christian causes or organizations

 

30

 

36

 

41

 

23

 

22

 

32

 

16

 

26

   Christians should support Christian

   causes when they can, but are

   free to support others when

   there’s no religious equivalent

 

 

 

34

 

 

 

36

 

 

 

31

 

 

 

30

 

 

 

46

 

 

 

35

 

 

 

42

 

 

 

32

   Christians are free to support

   any type of cause or

   organization, religious or not

 

 

33

 

 

22

 

 

25

 

 

47

 

 

32

 

 

34

 

 

40

 

 

37

 

Attitudes about Tithing/Giving

 

All

Southern Baptist

Other Baptist

 

Methodist

 

Lutheran

 

Pentecostal

 

Presbyterian

Non-Denom.

All  Others

What the Bible says:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   Biblical mandate to tithe

   10% to the local church

 

36%

 

51%

 

45%

 

25%

 

20%

 

55%

 

30%

 

31%

 

32%

   Biblical mandate to tithe

   10%, but not necessarily

   to the local church

 

 

23

 

 

28

 

 

26

 

 

25

 

 

22

 

 

25

 

 

13

 

 

24

 

 

19

   Biblical mandate to give,

   but not a set proportion

   (such as 10%)

 

 

27

 

 

16

 

 

15

 

 

33

 

 

43

 

 

16

 

 

44

 

 

24

 

 

34

   no Biblical mandate

   to give at all

 

10

 

3

 

7

 

16

 

13

 

3

 

10

 

13

 

10

   some other belief

   about giving/tithing

 

4

 

1

 

7

 

2

 

2

 

1

 

3

 

7

 

4

   How tithing is figured

   (among those

   with an opinion):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   10% of net income

48

37

51

56

66

41

64

41

48

   10% of gross income

52

63

49

44

34

59

36

59

52

Views about giving:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   Christians should support

   only Christian causes

 

1

 

1

 

3

 

1

 

1

 

1

 

--

 

--

 

2

   Christians should give

   preference to Christian

   causes or organizations

 

 

10

 

 

17

 

 

12

 

 

4

 

 

6

 

 

13

 

 

6

 

 

8

 

 

12

   Christians should support

   Christian causes when they

   can, but are free to support

   others when there’s

   no religious equivalent

 

 

 

 

33

 

 

 

 

39

 

 

 

 

42

 

 

 

 

35

 

 

 

 

37

 

 

 

 

34

 

 

 

 

27

 

 

 

 

27

 

 

 

 

29

   Christians are free to

   support any type of cause or

   organization, religious or not

 

 

55

 

 

42

 

 

43

 

 

60

 

 

56

 

 

53

 

 

67

 

 

65

 

 

56

 

Types of Organizations Supported

 

All

Southern Baptist

Other Baptist

 

Methodist

 

Lutheran

 

Pentecostal

 

Presbyterian

All  Others

Disaster relief

80%

79%

69%

91%

89%

75%

92%

82%

Evangelism

66

74

78

55

52

77

47

58

Denominational causes/issues

51

43

41

71

69

62

63

39

Specific schools/colleges

49

28

48

69

70

33

78

55

Literature (Bibles, tracts, etc.)

32

42

40

24

25

31

15

28

International poverty

   relief/development

 

25

 

14

 

28

 

30

 

35

 

8

 

38

 

34

Health (medical research,

   hospitals, etc.)

 

20

 

12

 

19

 

32

 

35

 

12

 

22

 

20

U.S. poverty relief/development

20

13

13

24

35

14

35

24

Educational causes

21

13

19

30

26

18

20

23

Radio or TV stations/ministries

19

16

13

16

13

24

19

23

Political causes/organizations

22

16

24

28

29

20

24

22

Social/moral (abortion,

   pornography, etc.)

 

20

 

18

 

23

 

16

 

27

 

16

 

16

 

21

Environmental causes

7

1

9

11

13

--

22

11

Animal welfare

5

2

5

9

12

--

10

6

Cultural (museums, opera, etc.)

9

3

5

20

20

6

19

9

Veterans’ causes

14

12

13

17

9

17

7

15

Political candidates

12

7

13

8

19

12

12

13

Other

10

9

13

7

16

5

6

13

Any cause with no religious

connection/element:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   yes

57

39

52

74

71

52

73

60

   no

43

61

48

26

29

48

27

40

 

Types of Organizations Supported

 

All

Southern Baptist

Other Baptist

 

Methodist

 

Lutheran

 

Pentecostal

 

Presbyterian

Non-Denom.

All  Others

Disaster relief

54%

64%

43%

59%

54%

37%

73%

54%

58%

Evangelism

33

42

35

20

30

44

27

35

34

Denominational causes/issues

24

27

26

18

34

25

17

18

28

Specific schools/colleges

19

22

17

19

20

14

16

14

24

Literature (Bibles, tracts, etc.)

16

22

20

7

11

14

11

19

19

International poverty

   relief/development

 

16

 

17

 

15

 

6

 

13

 

18

 

28

 

20

 

15

Health (medical research,

   hospitals, etc.)

 

24

 

21

 

20

 

24

 

29

 

10

 

34

 

28

 

30

U.S. poverty relief/development

17

16

21

12

17

16

21

17

17

Educational causes

21

25

19

16

23

11

18

21

27

Radio or TV stations/ministries

13

16

12

6

15

15

13

18

14

Political causes/organizations

13

14

7

10

15

14

25

10

15

Social/moral (abortion,

   pornography, etc.)

 

12

 

9

 

8

 

8

 

11

 

14

 

12

 

16

 

13

Environmental causes

12

7

10

10

14

5

13

12

16

Animal welfare

18

18

19

20

15

16

14

18

18

Cultural (museums, opera, etc.)

8

4

9

8

6

4

5

10

14

Veterans’ causes

28

30

28

29

31

25

38

25

28

Political candidates

9

6

7

8

15

8

7

10

13

Other

3

2

4

2

2

4

8

3

3

None

16

16

18

14

14

24

13

12

15

Any cause with no religious

connection/element:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   yes

57

55

57

57

65

44

68

62

59

   no

43

45

43

43

35

56

32

38

41

Out of all giving, what % is:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   to or through the local church

69

68

74

69

72

79

67

62

69

   to separate organizations

   (not local church)

 

31

 

32

 

26

 

31

 

28

 

21

 

33

 

38

 

31