Joe Park, CEO at Horizons Stewardship, sits down with Pastor, Author, and Leader Dr. Mark DeYmaz to talk about his latest book, “The Coming Revolution in Church Economics: Why Tithes and Offerings Are No Longer Enough, and What You Can Do About It.” This is the first of a three-part series designed to equip pastors and church leaders to understand why tithes and offerings may not be enough to fund the ministry God is calling your church to accomplish.
Pastor Spotlight with Dr. Mark DeYmaz
Church funding has largely centered on church attendance. Another way to say it, “People in the seats put dollars in the plate.” This has been the traditional funding model for churches for decades, and it used to be effective. But for the past thirty years it has worked a little less each year, to the point the church is receiving about half the percentage of charitable giving it did in 1990.
Another hard truth is about 74% of church giving today comes from people born before 1964. Only 26% of church giving comes from people born after that date. This is a long-term trend, and there is nothing to suggest it will change until the majority of churches refocus how they address their discipleship and ministry funding processes.
Underlying this trend is the reality that people born after 1964 tend not to trust institutions, and they certainly see the church as one. They also don’t accept that money is the primary tool to changing the world, viewing volunteerism and social media endorsements as equal to or even more valuable than giving. Their reality profoundly challenges traditional thinking about funding church ministry.
Personal Financial Training Can Help
Personal financial training is a critical step in the discipleship process of creating a culture of generosity in the church. Its importance grows every day because younger generations are often not getting sound financial guidance from home, family, or mentors. The church can absolutely help fill that gap.
The flaw in the strategy of many churches who embrace personal financial training, is the assumption that when people improve their financial management that they will use their increased disposable income to give more to the church. This is a leap that can’t be assumed.
There are two key transitions people make as they improve their personal financial understanding and habits. They learn how to get out of debt and manage their money. This creates disposable income. That’s step one. The next step is what to do with that disposable income. That’s an entirely different decision and one that doesn’t necessarily result in increased giving to the church. In other words, personal financial training is likely to increase household generosity, but much of this increased giving is going to charities other than the church.
Another complicating factor is that as churches succeed in becoming more ethnically, socially, and economically diverse, the wealth gap between various groups can have a profound impact on church funding. Since 1980, the concentration of wealth in the upper 10% of American households has grown at the expense of the bottom 90%, who have now lost 18% of their wealth to the upper 10% of households. The result is the number of households giving anything to charity is falling by a corresponding amount. As recently as 2002, 69% of American households gave to charity. That number fell to 55% in 2014, and the trend continues.
The church must provide consistent and clear teaching on percentage giving leading to tithing (10%) and offerings (giving above a 10% of household income). It’s an important spiritual discipline and one that derives primarily from a person’s need to be generous as an act of gratitude for God’s goodness in their lives.
That said, as the church strives to lead people to sacrificial generosity, it must be cognizant of the growing challenges families face, even if a family has disposable income. Consider these challenges for the families who occupy the proverbial pews and Facebook feeds of our churches today:
- There has been a substantial rise in dual-income households since 1960 to maintain the same standard of living.
- There is a widening wealth gap in the middle class, which has lost nearly 20% of its purchasing power. This gap affects what is often the largest group of consistent givers in a church.
- Changing demographics also re-orients families around wealth, discretionary income, and even earnings potential. Some in your church will earn more than others today not just as a result of skill gaps but also opportunity gaps.
- The rapid adoption of automation and the transfer of jobs overseas is slowly eroding many of the jobs often held by the middle class.
It’s not enough to teach people about generosity and stewardship. If they don’t feel financially secure, their fear and scarcity mindset will impact their willingness to commit to give in the same ways we’ve seen in previous generations. These factors will continue to challenge how we approach giving moving forward. Specifically, it means church leaders must view generosity and stewardship as part of a year-round generosity development effort - not just an annual event.
As people struggle to get ahead, churches will struggle right along with them, further invalidating the idea that more people will automatically result in more income. Churches who are already grappling with the realities of multi-ethnic, multi-economic communities recognize this challenge immediately.
So, while tithes and offerings must continue to be the primary means by which churches fund their ministry plans, it is clear that these traditional methods are already not enough for most churches to fund the work they believe God is calling them to do. In response, churches will need to consider how to diversify their income streams by creatively stewarding the resources God has entrusted to them.
The strategies Mark and Harry lay out in their book are not about stop-gap, chicken dinners to meet short-term funding shortfalls, but rather about creating sustainable income that can ensure your church is fully funded in the next five to ten years. Attraction and attendance are still valid measures, but for the reasons listed above, they are simply not enough to fund the future God is calling you to pursue.
Now is the time for church leaders to begin to engage the leaders in their church around these pressing realities. It’s quite possible the urgency you feel isn’t yet shared by those around you because they may not fully appreciate the seismic cultural shifts taking place and the impact these shifts are having, and will continue to have, on how your church funds ministry. Please consider forwarding this blog series to them and then follow up with a conversation.
This video is just the first of three interviews with Dr. Mark DeYmaz. If you haven’t already, you’ll want to order a copy of his book, “The Coming Revolution in Church Economics: Why Tithes and Offerings Are No Longer Enough, and What You Can Do About It.”
Despite the challenges these changes are placing before us, the future of the church looks very bright. But it will, undoubtably, look very different than it does today, especially when it comes to making disciples, funding ministry and stewarding all the resources God has placed in our care.