Survey: Recession's effects fading for some churches
March 30th, 2011
12:22 PM ET

Survey: Recession's effects fading for some churches

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN) - The worst of the recession may be over for some of America’s churches, a survey released Wednesday on religions donations indicated.

According to the survey, called State of the Plate, 43% of churches saw a rise in contributions in 2010, compared to 36% that saw an increase the year before.

Meanwhile, 39% of churches saw their giving dip last year, down from 47% that reported declines in 2009.

The survey, which is not scientific, garnered responses in February and March from 1,507 churches, most of them U.S.-based. The survey included responses from 86 churches from other countries, primarily Canada.

“Giving increases have begun to provide a glimmer of hope for many churches,” the survey reported.

The economic recession has taken a financial toll on many churches, with some filing for bankruptcy or struggling to hold onto property.

Smaller churches were hardest hit in 2010, with about 4 in 10 seeing contributions decline, compared to 3 in 10 megachurches – those with 2,000 or more weekly attendees.

The survey was co-sponsored by Christian ministry Maximum Generosity, publisher Christianity Today International and the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability.

Churches responding to the survey represent evangelical (24%), Baptist (23%), Independent/Non-denominational (21%), mainline Protestant (13%), Charismatic/Pentecostal (12%), Catholic/Orthodox (2%) and other Christian traditions (5%).

The survey also asked about President Barack Obama’s proposal to reduce tax deductions for charitable donations among wealthy Americans, with 9 in 10 churches reporting they would be negatively affected by such a move.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Christianity • Church • Money & Faith

soundoff (286 Responses)
  1. jesus, horus, mithra, atta

    Same story, same dogma , same B.S. only the Jesus they packaged you brings in billions of your hard earned money and you believe its going to buy you a place among the stars , like all who you really worship. And you laugh at shamans and scoff at voodoo. Your Jesus was a creation of pagans and stolen from the Egyptions....... AMEN!

    March 30, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
  2. ScottK

    "During the recent 39th annual Risk and Insurance Management Society (RIMS) annual conference held April 29-May 3rd in Atlanta, GA, a panel-style workshop on the topic of "Fraud" was held as part of the annual Nonprofits Industry Session. More than half of the session participants reported personal experience coping with the aftermath of fraud in their nonprofit organizations." nonprofitriskdotorg

    To get a good rating from a group -like "blank" from the IRS the and BBB, a charity should not spend more than 35% of what it makes on salaries, administration and the cost of raising money.

    So the good ones only give 75 cents on the dollar to the actual charity, how much do you think the bad ones give of your money?

    Reminds me of a joke... A priest, a rabbi & a pastor are talking about how they divy up the donations at their churches, so the Priest says "Well, we take all of Sundays donations out back, draw a circle in the parking lot with some chalk & then thrown the money up in the air above the circle and whatever lands in the circle we keep and the rest we give to God." The Rabbi then says "Yes, Yes, we have a similar way of dividing up our donations, we draw the circle and throw up the money and whatever lands in the circle we give to God, and the rest we keep." The pastor looks at them both and says "Yes, we to have a similar method, we draw a circle & throw the money up in the air really really high, and whatever God wants, he keeps".

    March 30, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
  3. Truth

    I understand the argument of churches being taxed out of existance.. But their needs to be tax reform regardin religion.

    March 30, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
  4. I'm glad

    Whew, one less excuse not to get rid of their tax exempt status now out of the way. Time to PAY if you PLAY. When churches but themselves into politics they cease from being neutral agents of charity and become tax free shelters for PACs... Time to loose your tax free status and pay like everyone else. Its also time for the elites to start paying again as well. But that is another story.

    March 30, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
  5. Sevenveils

    Churches starting to make profits again from their services? Praise Jesus! Tax them all and get this country out of debt.

    March 30, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
  6. JennyTX

    I'm not really interested in joining any religion that believes that ITS theories are "right" and everyone else's theories are "wrong."

    March 30, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
  7. Chanselor Jenkins

    God is showing himself constantly. Your eyes just need to be opened.

    March 30, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
  8. Sybaris

    It makes absolutley no sense that churches are tax exempt.

    Tangible resources that provide services and goods to those in need should always be tax exempt, not organizations that base their existance on worshipping purple unicorns and Mr. Fabulous.

    March 30, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
  9. Linda C - AZ

    God is alive and well, and has immense love for each of you! He is YOUR creator and YOU are made in His image. Look in the mirror and see God looking back at you! He's, patiently, waiting for you to come back to Him!

    March 30, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
    • Sophia

      I think you got that wrong. God was made in our image by the Greeks and Romans with some imagination thrown in to make it believable. Nice con job on their part.

      March 30, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
    • Maryann

      Oh, yeah, he's 'patiently waiting' OR ELSE – he'll send me to hell for all eternity so that I will burn and scream and cry and weep, and gnash my teeth, etc, etc, etc.


      March 30, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
  10. SSampson

    Great – now Pat Robertson and his ilk can by new Bentleys....

    Imaginations sooth the ills of reality...

    If all the Churches and pseudo Churches (Pat and the wealthy evangilists) – and every other religious organizations and beleifs would sell everything and put it into society.... REAL problems would be solved –

    Correct me if i am wrong (Christians here) but doesn't it say... "When two or three are gathered in my name..." – There is nothing about million dollar buildings, stained glass, big Organs (some worth millions themselves) and gold crosses and candlesticks...

    Sell it all and meet in a multi-purpose rental hall ... Everyone ALWAYS says it is about faith and not about money after all... so why can't you do it on the cheap?? –

    I still won't be going, but at least I won't shake my head at the obvious hypocracy....

    March 30, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
  11. irene

    It's time for churches to start paying their fair share of taxes. We all subsidize churches with utility grids, roads, police, fire, etc. They are nothing more than big business hiding behind the pulpit and I don't think my tax dollars should support them, especially when they get involved in politics. It's a violation of my civil liberties.

    March 30, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
  12. A Non Believer

    make churches pay property taxes!! They are a drain on society – all of our taxes are higher because they do not pay any

    March 30, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
    • Alex

      Making them a tax payer gives them rights we might not want them to have. I would rather keep them separated from any say in our society.

      March 30, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
    • Jeanine

      They already have rights they do not deserve! And they are constantly interfering, manipulating, and treasonously subverting our government!
      Alex, you are a sick human being.

      March 30, 2011 at 8:01 pm |
    • Lycidas

      Jeanine, how exactly are Churches interfering, manipulating, and treasonously subverting our government? Are not the members of such churches also citizens with all the rights granted to them as citizens?

      March 30, 2011 at 8:31 pm |
  13. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    I didn't know churches were in recession, didn't hear of "pastors" losing their mansions, airplanes, mercedes/rolls royces, designer suits or their wives having to get a job. What did I miss?

    March 30, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
  14. Caliban

    Lycidas, oh sorry man. First time here, still getting all my ducks in a row, so to speak. Guess I should have used the reply button. I don't post much on the internet, it can be vexing.

    March 30, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
  15. Caliban

    Lycidas, I didn't say anyone did here.
    Elflander, you changed the "they"s I wrote to "I"s, which makes a world of difference. I was speaking about a devout Zeus believer then, and comparing them to any god believer now, but then you already knew that.
    So I ask the devout believers here of whoever their current god may be.
    Was or is Zeus real? If you say no, can you answer this question. What makes your god more believeable than Zeus?

    March 30, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
    • Lycidas

      Oh, was responding to Bam.

      March 30, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
  16. Wes

    I am so glad I went with our origionl pagan gods that were slandered by the Church.
    Hail Satan our true creator and a loving and just god who actually cares about humanity, and actually answers prayers, sometimes showing up in person. Had it not been for him I would probably be dead right now he saved me on numerous occasions from people who were wanting to take advantage of me and filled me with hope and love when I was feeling suicidal near the end of my time as a believer in Christ. There is nothing that even comes close to this in Christianity.
    If you want to know more visit http://www.joyofsatan.com and free your mind today.

    March 30, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
    • Maryann

      WHY do you need a god? Or a satan, or whatever??? Can't you just live on your own without the help of an imaginary 'higher power'???

      March 30, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
    • Sevenveils

      Satan is not a god, Satan is an angel. Get it straight.

      March 30, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
  17. Denizen Kate

    If churches are doing so well financially, perhaps they can start paying taxes like the rest of us and do their part to reduce the deficit? Just a thought.

    March 30, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
    • bam

      Exactly... enough with the tax exemptions...... u own property here pay your taxes like every other person does, stop milking money away from the population for fantasy land......
      Walt Disney World pays taxes so shall religious world.

      March 30, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
    • CR

      Pay taxes, you mean like GE?

      March 30, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
    • dink

      I agree with Denizen.

      March 30, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
    • Jesús Malverde

      Make them pay is what I say.

      March 30, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
    • Manolo

      Churches aren't "tax exempt" as you might think. Churches pay payroll taxes, real property taxes, vehicle taxes, etc., just the same as any other taxpayer. The exception is taxation of income, which comes from financial donations from members and givers and which has already been subject to taxation. Churches have tax exempt status on this for the same reason that other non-profits do (such as PETA, the SPCA, the Nature Conservancy, etc.): the organization uses the funds for the benefit of the collective, no individual person benefits exclusively from the funds, and the funds are not used for political contributions. Even tax exempt status on purchases has a limit: the purchase must be legitimate according to IRS standards. Buying food for hosting community day care for working mothers would be tax exempt, but a car bought for the pastor (like some of the "Name It, Claim It" or "Word of Faith" churches do) are fully taxable.

      March 30, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
    • freeborn

      Do any of you realize that all charitable organizations and non-profit groups do not have to pay taxes? Also, do any of you realize that the people who are giving the money to the churches do pay taxes? It's not as if the church prints its own money or the church members do not pay taxes. The money donated to the church comes from taxpayers who decided to share their money with whoever they see fit. Same rights as you have.

      March 30, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
    • Jeanine

      Denizen Kate – Very well said. I wish you would run for office. I would vote for you.

      March 30, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
    • Lycidas

      Wouldn't make much of a difference unless he planned on overthrowing the Govt and rewrite the laws of our land.

      March 30, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
  18. Jules


    Why do children and families in other countries not matter? Is it because they are not American like you?! Do only Americans matter? And people wonder why American's are not well like in this world.

    People in other countries need help, living in poverty, no clean water, no justice, no jobs, no food, no shelter. You try living on less than $1US a day, and let me know how that goes for you CEL1.

    I don't have any strong opinions on Churches not paying taxes. It is no different for non-profit charities, and if Churches (and other charities) wish to spend their money overseas, that is their choice. What I find disgusting is that your country is spending BILLIONS to kill innocent people over this so called "war on terrorism" yet no one dares mentioning that.

    March 30, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
    • Jared

      Homeless veterans live on less than $1 a day.

      March 30, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
    • Jeanine

      "no one dares mentioning that" – well YOU just did, didn't you? And many thousands of other people are "mentioning" that as well. Where is everyone's priorities? In the religious toilet for the majority of people. Divide and conquer are the age-old tactics being used in so many ways by so many...even me.

      March 30, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
  19. Caliban

    What I can't seem to fathom is why the past isn't ever considered when discussing gods. Zeus, Ra, Ceres, be it Roman, Greek or Egyptian gods why does no one see humans have been using gods as an excuse for things they can't understand. Next you are going to tell me you are right and they were wrong? Isn't that what they would have said to you?

    March 30, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
    • Lycidas

      No offense, but who has been going about on here saying they are right and others are wrong? Seems a certain group far outweighs Christians or any other organization in doing that on these threads.

      March 30, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
    • elflander

      Next you are going to tell me that you are right and I am wrong. But isn't that just what I would say to you?

      Nothing of philosophical significance follows from the fact of disagreement.

      March 30, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
    • Lycidas

      Lol, no I am not going to say that. But if I may, note the use of the word "Seems" in my statement. It is totally up to the reader if they agree with me or not.

      March 30, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
    • bam

      Education is faltering in the United States with ignorance grows FEAR with fear u must grasp fantasies to explain things.

      March 30, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
    • Lycidas

      Some have argued that education was better in the 1950's and 60's. Higher church attendance too probably. So I doubt religion and a bad education are related.

      March 30, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
    • Alex

      I don't know about that because if that was true the kids raised by those educated in the 1950-60 raised the "me" generation. The generation everyone tends to say bad things about. LOL!

      March 30, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
    • Manolo

      I wouldn't tell you that you're wrong or right. I would tell you to first learn what the Bible is and then undertake a scholarly study of it, which means to not rely upon Web sites that don't meet scholastic reference standards. Learn the history of it, including how it came into being, the standards used to translate it, the sources of its content, the nuances of the languages used, and the contexts of the books. Then make an informed comparison and contrast with the gods of the cultures you described. By the way, keep in mind the difference between cultural gods and mythological gods. There is a considerable difference between the two. Best wishes to you in whatever you pursue.

      March 30, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
  20. Albiem

    When people cannot get help from Government sources, they go to Churches for help. My Church BUYS food from the local Food Bank and gives it freely to people who are in need and do not qualify for assistance. We help out when older people on fixed incomes cannot afford to purchase medications or pay their light bills. We have, in past have to refer people to other Churches when our tills are empty. Churches help out in many ways people refuse to see. In stead of bashing God, Christ and Churches, why don't people volunteer at Churches more often and get an idea of how they work. While I don't doubt Atheists contribute, I seriously doubt they do it out of the "goodness" of their own hearts. I am sure they brag all about it to the IRS at tax time.

    March 30, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
    • Cason

      "While I doubt most athiests contribute," please don't assume, it makes you look stupid. 95% of athiests know very well how churches work, and we also know that many do not work as they claim.

      March 30, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
    • Trib


      You may not realise it, but many Atheist grew up in the church, and that is why they are now Atheist. They do not need to "volunteer" for a church, because they have witnessed the ongoings first hand.
      At least Atheist pay taxes, the church does not.

      BTW, I have never used any charitable donations I have ever made as tax deductions. It seems you do not know a lot about Atheists. Many of your kind neighbours are probably Atheists and you don't even know it because they don't go around making a big show about it.

      March 30, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
    • Jules

      You misread, he said "While I DON'T doubt"

      Also, I'm sure atheists DO donate for good reasons. I don't understand why a person has to be a religious one to be kind to others.

      March 30, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
    • Denizen Kate

      Albiem, you complain about "bashing God, Christ and Churches" and then proceed to bash atheists. Don't they teach the golden rule in church anymore? As an atheist who donates both time, goods, and money, I resent your bashing.

      March 30, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
    • SCOTO

      Your really seem to be "sure" about a lot of things that we atheists seem to feel and do. I rather think this is how you would like us to be as opposed to having done any real investigation on the topic. Yes?

      March 30, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
    • bam

      STOP Taking money out of our pockets for these religious TAX EXEMPTIONS........
      This insanity needs to stop. If you own property U pay taxes for it. close some budget gaps removing this insanity

      March 30, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
    • JT

      You Christians do charity work only to proselytize and coerce the vulnerable. That's what disgusts me most about your kind. Missionaries go to poor countries or disaster stricken places to convert others to into their cult. Atheists quietly go about helping our fellow man because it's simply the right thing to do. We don't do it out of fear of a great, eternal punishment or in hopes of a great reward. Nor do we atheists go around calling attention to ourselves always needing a pat on the back.

      March 30, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
    • cecilia

      I am a Christian, a recovering Catholic to be precise – I think you just broke several of the Thou Shall Nots – first you made a judgement – that's not ok; then you assumed that Atheists bash God, Christ and churches – well – wrong again and not very nice in the light of the Brotherly love message. Oops and you judged again when you believed you knew why Atheists were motivated to do good – do you seriously believe that only Christians are capable of doing good out of the kindness of their hearts – All evidence is to the contrary – Go in Peace and God loves all of us. I know, because I asked Her

      March 30, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
    • Tom G

      I have given to numerous charities the last couple years and I resent your assumption that I don't give out of the goodness of my heart. That's EXACTLY why I give. The fact that I'm allowed a tax deduction because of it is a consequence that I take advantage of as well. But you know who I DON'T give to? Churches....your church buying food from the food bank and donating it is admirable. But I wonder how much of that goes on with churches in general, as opposed to the "building funds" they run so they can build THEIR big fancy church, just like the one down the street. And I also get tired of hearing "God says we should love one another, not steal, not kill......." I'm pretty sure that most people with a conscience (and functioning brain) would know those things without having to be told by some preacher.

      March 30, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
    • Mrs1993

      1. The "recession" is not over – I don't care what the experts say. Who hired them anyway?
      2. Organized or Un-Organized Religion and Athiests are not the cause of, nor the contributing factor to, the recession.
      3. God, Allah, Buddha, Satan, Zeus or any other named "god" in this forum are not to blame for the recession.
      4. Our government is the by far the biggest abuser and spender of taxpayer money to "charitable" causes overseas.
      5. If you feel charitable, give it. If you don't, don't give it.

      Seriously people, quit buying into what the government machine feeds you and quit believing that our government would never lie to you nor steer you in the wrong direction. Just take a look at the $80 billion dollar war-on-drugs bureacracy. Maybe the above statement should say "Our government AND pharmaceutical companies are our biggest abusers....."

      March 30, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
    • Toby

      I give freely and generously to those in need. I support a couple of well-run charities, and I have given to special collections for relief efforts after the Haiti disaster, New Orleans hurricane, and other situations. I do not believe in any god, goddess, or supernatural ideas. Therefore, because one does not need a god or to believe in a god to be kind and benevolent to others, your claim falls to the ground.Peace.

      March 30, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
    • Dm

      @ JT

      So you know, that is an extreme generalization that mission work is ONLY done to convert individuals. I am aware of many mission trips that do not involve converting citizens in the area. For example, I have friends who went to Indian reservations to them out with building homes and other infrastructure without any slight attempt to convert the Indians from their native religion. I think you would be right to assume that missionary work was originally intended to evangelize individuals from various places around the world, but in many churches nowadays it has developed to simply mean philanthropy done by a church to help their fellow human beings – whether they are Christian or not.

      Individuals who are atheist and religious alike are perfectly capable of engaging in philanthropic work because of a simple desire to help others. To generalize that atheists do not care or that religious people care for the wrong reasons in such a way is blindly ignorant of humanity's natural empathy for their fellow man.

      I'm not even that religious and I know this.

      March 30, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
    • Jared

      There seems to be some confusion here about Atheists and Christians. The only difference between them is that one believes God does exist and the other believes God doesn't exist. They're both equally pushy about their beliefs and take every opportunity to bad mouth the other. People do good or evil by their own will regardless of whether or not they worship God.

      March 30, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
    • Dm

      Well said, Jared.

      March 30, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
    • Jeanine

      Jared – And if their "will" is in thrall to a belief system then their will has been "taken over".
      I think you forgot how easy it is to get people to do things against their "will" or even their natural inclinations.

      March 30, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
    • S1N

      Kate – Didn't you get the memo. These days, the golden rule only applies if you're part of their religion. That being said, we need to start tax in churches. They can deduct their charitable contributions from their taxes. Most honest churches probably wouldn't wind up owing much at the end anyway. Only the for-profit mega churches who exist only to get their priest / pastor a new Bentley would truly suffer. I see no reason that non-profits shouldn't have to file taxes. If you wind up having to pay large amounts of money to the IRS at the end of the year, chances are your organization wasn't that charitable after all.

      March 30, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
    • Gary

      Athiests aren't tax exempt.

      March 30, 2011 at 4:52 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.