The financial health of America’s Protestant churches has either stabilized or improved since the pandemic ravaged the economy in 2020, according to a new Lifeway Research survey that has mixed results for the nation’s congregations.
The poll, released Tuesday, shows that 49 percent of pastors say the current economy is having “no impact” on their churches – the highest number in that category since Lifeway began asking the question in 2009 and an uptick from 2020 (35 percent).
Another 37 percent say the economy is negatively impacting their church, which is a decline from 2020 (48 percent). Twelve percent say the economy is having a positive decline – a slight decrease from the 15 percent who answered that way in 2020.
All total, 61 percent say the economy is either having no impact or is positively impacting their church. In 2020, it was 50 percent.
Still, the 12 percent who say the economy is having a positive impact on their church is the lowest since 2012, when it was about 9 percent.
“Most churches are taking a deep breath financially following the uncertainty of the height of the pandemic,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research. “While the official recession ended quickly in April 2020, economic growth has been uneven, and few churches are feeling actual positive impacts from the economy at this point.”
Meanwhile, 31 percent of pastors say their church’s offerings are above what they were in 2020, while 42 percent say they are the same. About one in five (22 percent) pastors say their church’s offerings are below what they were in 2020.
“We see great improvement in the number of churches with a downward trend in giving,” McConnell said. “A year ago, more than a third of churches had seen giving decline, and 13 percentage points fewer say so today. Some of those churches may still be working to get back to 2019 levels, but the number with declining income is back around the historic norm.”
The survey involved interviews with 1,000 Protestant pastors in September.
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Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.