The Christmas shopping season is in full swing, but pastors are divided on whether the economy is helping their congregations this year, according to a new survey from LifeWay Research.
Forty-one percent say the economy is having no impact on their church, while the rest are split on whether the effect is positive (30 percent) or negative (26 percent).
“Fundamentally, the U.S. economy is in a similar place that it was a year ago,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. “Yet pastors are less optimistic about this outside influence on their church than they were in 2018.”
Although the 30 percent of pastors who believe the economy is having a positive impact is more than triple what it was in the first part of this decade, it’s down from the 45 percent who felt the same way in 2018. The percentage of pastors who feel a negative impact from the economy increased for the first time since 2010.
It’s not yet known if the lower numbers are a result of the media’s reporting on the economy which, when included with general reporting of the Trump administration, has been 90 percent negative stories.
African American pastors are the most likely to say the economy is having a negative effect on their congregation (49 percent), while white pastors are the most likely to see a positive impact for their church (33 percent). This is a strange response from black pastors and may indicate a political bias because black unemployment is now its lowest level since record keeping began and black families are entering the middle class at a record rate.
Pastors of the smallest congregations, those with fewer than 50 in attendance, are most likely to say the economy is having a negative impact (37 percent) and the least likely to say it’s having a positive one (17 percent).
Whatever the economic climate is outside the church, around three in four pastors say their offerings this year have been at or above last year’s. More than one-third (37 percent) say their church’s giving has been up so far this year. The same percentage say it has been the same as 2018.
“Last year was the first year in which many Americans had lower withholding levels because of tax reform,” McConnell said. “It’s not surprising that fewer churches are seeing year-over-year growth in 2019 without a similar stimulus to their congregants’ take-home pay.”
–Alan Goforth | Metro Voice