A new, comprehensive study of church giving patterns has found that the overall percentage of income church members give declined slightly between 1994 and 1995 to 2.46% and was sharply below that of 1968, when church members gave 3.11% of their income.
The study, which looked at giving in 29 denominations, said that if members had continued to give at the 1968 rate in 1995, the typical annual contribution per member would have been $629.69 instead of the current $498.20 and the aggregate giving would have been $18.8 billion rather than the current $14.4 billion.
The report, "The State of Church Giving Through 1995," was done by John and Sylvia Ronsvalle of Empty Tomb Inc., a Christian research organization.
In another part of the study, the Ronsvalles compared giving in eight denominations belonging to the National Assn. of Evangelicals and eight denominations belonging to the more liberal National Council of Churches.
They found that giving by evangelicals had declined from 6% of income in 1968 to 4% in 1995. Mainline members, who historically give at lesser rates, had a smaller decline--from 3.3% in 1968 to 2.9% in 1995.
Although the study did not pinpoint reasons for the decline in giving by evangelicals, Sylvia Ronsvalle suggested that it could mean that evangelical Christians are moving more toward the cultural mainstream. Nondenominational groups, which have proliferated among evangelical Christians in the past few decades, also may be claiming more dollars.