Over the last 10 years, I have been tracking data from the largest United Methodist congregations in America. Through this work, I have uncovered some interesting relationships between giving and growth among the top 200 churches in average worship attendance. You can use these figures as benchmarks to get a quick snapshot of your own church’s financial situation.

(This data also fuels my annual list of the Top 25 Fastest Growing United Methodist Churches. I’ll link the 2018 edition when it releases here. You can also read previous editions here: 2017 Edition, 2016 Edition, 2015 Edition and 2011 Edition.)

Let’s look at some numbers:

 

Annual Operating Budget Income

Annual Operating Income, Top 200 ChurchesHere is the range of annual income among the largest 200 United Methodist churches, as measured by average worship attendance:

  • $18,210,000 – Highest
  • $3,591,487 – Average
  • $2,756,199 – Median
  • $875,000 – Lowest

 

The average income of the top 25 fastest growing is $3,377,130 which is 5% less than the average budget of the entire Top 200 list.

These numbers provide interesting insights regarding the budgets of the Top 200 United Methodist Churches. But what about relationship between total annual giving and average worship attendance? How might you you discover a relationship between giving and growth at your church?

 

Annual Giving per Average Worship Attendee

Giving per Attendee, Top 200 UM ChurchesAgain, among the top 200 United Methodist congregations in average worship attendance in the United States, here is the range of giving, as measured per average worship attendee.

  • $10,773 – Highest
  • $2,300 – Average
  • $2,230 – Median
  • $585 – Lowest

 

The average giving per worship attendee of the top 25 fastest growing is $1,570, which is 32% less than the average giving per attendee of the entire Top 200 list.

While the Top 25 fastest growing churches average 5% less annual income than the Top 200 as a whole, when divided by worship attendance, you see a big (32%) drop per attendee. This could suggest some economies of scale in the larger congregations or, perhaps, rapid growth occurring as a result of people new in faith who do not yet understand the principles of Christian Stewardship.

Additionally, you can project the giving health of your congregation, as compared to this range, by dividing your budget by your current average worship attendance. Are you above the median of $2,230? Below?

 

Per Capita Giving (aka, Weekly Giving per Worship Attendee)

Per Capita Giving, Top 200 UM ChurchesBreaking down the previous per attendee statistics on a weekly basis, we can determine an average weekly per person gift of those attending worship in a typical large United Methodist church in America.

Here are the average weekly gifts per attendee in the largest 200 United Methodist churches (in terms of average worship attendance):

  • $206 – Highest
  • $44 – Average
  • $43 – Median
  • $11 – Lowest

 

This number breaks down the weekly tithe and offering gift into a specific number. As with the annual gift, the average weekly giving per worship attendee of the top 25 fastest growing is $30, or 32% less.

The top 10% of per capita giving congregations receive at least $73 per person, per week, and the bottom 10% of per capita giving congregations receive less than $25 per person, per week.

 

Debt

Last, debt can be a useful tool for innovation, but how much is considered too much? Here’s where the Top 200 United Methodist churches stand in terms of total debt:

  • $21,102,000 – Highest
  • $2,755,031 – Average
  • $1,762,207 – Median
  • $0 – Lowest (60 of the Top 200 churches have no debt)

 

The average debt among top 25 fastest growing churches is $3,625,744, which is 24% higher than the average, again indicating a possible economy of scale, or perhaps the artifacts of innovations which have incurred short-term debt.

 

Debt to Giving Ratio

How much debt a church can incur without jeopardizing ministry may be measured in proportion to the size of a church’s annual giving—an indication of how quickly the debt can be repaid. A good rule of thumb is that anything under a ratio of 2.0 (debt twice the annual operating budget) should be manageable.

And here’s where the top 200 churches stand in debt-to-income ratio:

  • The average debt-to-income ratio is 0.9.
  • 27 of the top 200 churches have a debt to income ratio above 2.0.
  • The highest is 4.7.

 

Measure Your Church’s Giving to Growth Ability

Fill out the following exercise to get a snapshot of your church’s financial situation, as compared to the above benchmark figures:

 

2017 End of Year Worship Attendance: _________

2017 End of Year Annual Operating Income: _________

Dollars per attendee (Income / Attendance): _________

Per Capita Giving (Dollars per attendee / 52): _________

Are you higher or lower than the $2,300 yearly average or $44 weekly average?

 

2017 End of Year Debt: _________

Debt to Income Ratio (Debt / Income): _________

Are you higher or lower than the 0.9 average?

 

If your church could benefit from some coaching to improve this snapshot, contact us. We’d love to help you!

 

RECENT Posts

A Story of Faith and Transformation You Need to Know

In 2016, St. Andrew, Plano, Texas, faced a significant challenge. Located in Collin County, Texas, one of the fastest growing areas in the nation, St. Andrew was experiencing growth, especially in their contemporary worship service. As a result, several other areas including children and youth, missions, hospitality, and parking were all being stretched beyond capacity to accommodate growth.

St. Andrew’s Growth Paralleled a Focus on Generosity in Their Core Church Language

However, St. Andrew’s leaders had been preparing for growth through the development of their 30-year master expansion plan. The plan focused on four aspects of church life: worship, connect, serve, and give. As growing pains became more intense, church leaders realized it was time to launch a capital campaign. The funds raised would relieve the pressure by beginning to expand critical ministry areas according to the master plan.

Four key aspects of church life at St. Andrew: Worship, Connect, Serve, and Give

 

The Church’s Capital Campaign Facilitated its Larger Generosity Strategy

St. Andrew’s Senior Pastor, Robert Hasley, explained, “We hired Horizons to guide us in determining what to include in the first phase of our capital campaign. Through conversations with our ministry and financial leaders, our committed core of members, and ultimately, the entire congregation, we embarked on an ambitious plan. The result is a worship space that switches from a traditional to a contemporary style with almost the touch of a button.

We now have a worship space that switches from a traditional to a contemporary style with almost the touch of a button.

-Senior Pastor Robert Hasley

This change has enabled us to reset quickly while accommodating both traditional and contemporary worship styles. We also created new and improved areas for students,  children, hospitality, and parking. One of the more significant changes was the addition of a dedicated missions wing for The Storehouse of Collin County–an agency birthed in our church that provides services for Collin County residents in need.”

A Successful Capital Campaign Paid Additional Dividends

In the end, St. Andrew exceeded giving expectations in the capital campaign and moved forward with their plans. In addition, the positivity emerging from the capital campaign created a vibrancy and energy that has impacted ministry in all areas. Rev. Hasley says, “Like our namesake, Andrew the Apostle, we’re a community that loves to invite others to Jesus. As we live out our calling to worship, connect, serve and give, we’re witnessing God move through our community in remarkable ways.”

St. Andrew exceeded giving expectations and moved forward with their expansion plans.

St. Andrew’s journey is far from over. God continues to call the congregation to live out their mission, “Calling the “Christian-ish” to become passionate servants of Christ.”

For more information on the ministry at St. Andrew, Plano, Texas, click here.

To learn more about partnering with Horizons to move your congregation to the next level of generosity, click here.

The Three Pockets of Giving

Are you inviting your members to contribute from all three pockets of giving?

Many churches focus on the annual pocket and neglect to consider the other two–capital and estate pockets. In this next video in the Giving Intelligence Series, learn about the three pockets of giving and why you should be including all three in your year-round generosity program.

 

 

Did you miss the first three installments of the Giving Intelligence Series?  Click the titles below to quickly access them or sign up for Giving365 and access these videos along with many other free stewardship resources.

Three Reasons Americans Choose to Give

The Power of Thanks: Four Practical Ministry Funding Impact Strategies

Who Should Have Access to the Giving Records

 

To access more of Horizons’ free stewardship resources, click the Giving365 logo below.
Giving365 - Blog - Horizons - church stewardship resource

Who Should Know What People Give?

Clif Christopher, Horizons’ Founder and author of Not Your Parents’ Offering Plate, discusses the most argued-about stewardship topic in the church today: who should know what people give.

 

In this newest video from Horizons’ Giving Intelligence Series, Clif shares his perspective on who should know what people give to the church and why it’s important. If your church leadership has ever disagreed about who should have access to the church’s giving list, this brief video will provide insights and answers to this controversial topic.

 

 

 

 

Did you miss the first two installments of the Giving Intelligence Series?  Click the titles below to quickly access them or sign up for Giving365 and access these videos along with many other free stewardship resources.

Three Reasons Americans Choose to Give

The Power of Thanks: Four Practical Ministry Funding Impact Strategies

 

 

To access more of Horizons’ free stewardship resources, click the Giving365 logo below.
Giving365 - Blog - Horizons - church stewardship resource

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