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

How to Make the Offering About Love (An Offering Talk for Sunday)

Instead of simply calling the ushers forward, help your congregation understand deeper meaning and connection inherent in the offering time of worship. Use what I call an Offering Talk to connect the offering to the giver’s relationship to God.

An Offering Talk can help your congregation understand the deep meaning and connection inherent in the offertory. It is an ideal stewardship teaching moment.

 

Here’s a sample Offering Talk to use Sunday.

Every night a father tucked his daughter into bed and they would repeat their familiar routine. The little girl would say, “I love you” and her dad would say, “I love you first.” One night, however, the little girl interjected a change. After hearing her father say, “I love you first,” she proclaimed, “I love you always!” And that became their new routine. The little girl has grown and is now a young wife and mother, but daughter and father continue to share these words. The exchange continues to affirm their love and connection. One will say, “I love you first” and then wait to hear the response, “I love you always.”

I love you first, and I love you always.

As wonderful a gift as the love between a parent and child, how much greater and more perfect is the love between God the Creator and those claimed as God’s children? This is the image of the God we have come to worship today. A God whose love reaches back into all our yesterdays and stretches into all our tomorrows. A God who always loves and forgives, who is always there to guide us when we are lost, to strengthen us when we are tired, and who overwhelms our hearts with love and grace. We come today to both acknowledge and praise the One who loves us first and who will love us always.

The motivation for giving is love.

Years ago a widow gave her last two coins as an offering to God. Many still wonder what motivated such a sacrificial gift. Surely she did not expect to have her name engraved on a wall or have the street in front of the Temple named in her honor. She clearly did not anticipate her gift would be lifted up as an example for others to follow centuries later. So what motivated her gift? Maybe she was motivated by a heart-felt desire to declare her life had been blessed by a God who had always met her needs. Blessed by a God who loved her first and always. The widow’s sacrificial offering was the very best way she knew to express that she loved God first. She would love God always.

Too often the offering is viewed as a time to pay the bills.

Today, many see the offering as a way for the church to collect money to pay bills and fund ministries. Yet at its very core, the offering is so much more. The offering is the time we are invited to proclaim, through faith, that we love God first. We love Him more than our jobs, our assets, our possessions, our hobbies, and even our families.

The offering is the time we proclaim our trust in God, above all else, as we move into an unknown future.

It is in giving we stay connected to what is really important in life and not allow materialism to define who we are; and it is in giving that we gain a deeper understanding of the depth of sacrificial love God has for us. It is in giving that we grow in our own personal journey as a follower of Jesus. It is in giving we say to God and to the world those simple, yet life-defining words: “I love you first, and I will love you always.”

 

An Offering Talk connects the act of giving to a higher purpose.

The offering is not a time to pay bills as mentioned above. The act of giving is at the core of what it means to be a follower of Christ. Consider using this talk in your next worship service, or write your own. In either case, help your congregation see the higher purpose of giving in worship.

 

 To learn more about Dustin Cooper, please click here.

 

 

Giving365 is a free subscription from Horizons Stewardship including blogs, ebooks, webinars and more! Subscribers receive bi-monthly blogs including information on best practices, the latest trends in giving, and helpful tools to use immediately to grow giving. In addition, Horizons’ team of Ministry Strategists will share their insights and expertise through a series of webinars. To access more of Horizons’ free stewardship resources, click the Giving365 logo below.
Giving365 - Blog - Horizons - church stewardship resource

The blog was updated from the original published 2/20/2018.

 

 

“Giving” Has to Be One of Your Church’s Key Words

“Giving” as one of the Key Words in Core Strategy

Len Wilson, Horizons’ Communications Strategist, discusses the importance of including “giving” in the key words that define your core strategy. This next video in Horizons’ Giving Intelligence Series will help your church grow in giving and move to the next level of generosity.

When “giving” is included in your core strategies, it conveys the importance of generosity as a part of the discipleship journey and what it means to be a devoted Christ follower.

 

 

If you missed other installments of the Giving Intelligence Series, then click the titles below. Also, sign up for Giving365 in order to access these and other helpful videos as well as more free stewardship resources including insightful eBooks!

Three Reasons Americans Choose to Give

The Power of Thanks: Four Practical Ministry Funding Impact Strategies

Who Should Have Access to the Giving Records

Three Pockets of Giving

Are You Ready for a Capital Campaign

 

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

Are You Ready for a Capital Campaign?

How do you know if you are ready to launch a capital campaign?  

 

Kristine Miller, CFRE, Horizons’ Senior Partner, discusses the five important steps you should take prior to launching a capital campaign to ensure successful results.

 

In this latest video from Horizons’ Giving Intelligence Series, Kristine discusses five actions to take prior to launching a campaign for any project such as building, restoration, debt, missions, endowment, or any other capital needs. Has your church leadership wondered whether or not you’re ready to go? If so, this brief video will provide the insights and answers you are looking for.

 

If you missed other installments of the Giving Intelligence Series, click the titles below. Also, sign up for Giving365 in order to access these and other helpful videos as well as more free stewardship resources including insightful eBooks!

Three Reasons Americans Choose to Give

The Power of Thanks: Four Practical Ministry Funding Impact Strategies

Who Should Have Access to the Giving Records

Three Pockets of Giving

 

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

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