Emerging from the pandemic, most churches don’t seem to be underwater financially, but many are treading water.
Around half of U.S. Protestant pastors say the current economy isn’t really having an impact on their congregation, according to a Lifeway Research study. The 49% who say the economy is having no impact on their church marks the highest percentage since Lifeway Research began surveying pastors on this issue in 2009.
Almost 2 in 5 pastors (37%) say the economy is negatively impacting their congregation, while 12% say the economy is having a positive impact. Both positive and negative numbers are down from September 2020, when 48% said the economy was hurting their congregation and 15% said it was helping. The last time fewer pastors than this year said the economy is playing a positive role for their church was May 2012.
The two years prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 2018 and 2019, mark the only two times in the survey’s more than 12-year history that more pastors said the economy was having a positive impact than a negative one.
“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.”
After many churches faced budget shortfalls and decreased giving in 2020, 2021 saw most churches meet their budget and stop the decline in giving.
Seven in 10 pastors say offering levels at least met the budget this year. Almost half of churches (48%) say the giving at their church has been about what they budgeted, while 22% say it is higher than budgeted. Around a quarter of pastors (27%) say they didn’t make budget with their giving levels.
Similarly, most churches say their 2021 offering so far matched or exceeded what they received during 2020. More than 2 in 5 pastors (42%) say it’s the same as last year. Three in 10 (31%) say the offering in 2021 is above 2020’s. Fewer than 1 in 4 (22%) say they’re behind last year’s giving levels.