Religious attendance may be down, but income is up

Over the past decade, our congregation has seen flat attendance, slowly declining membership — but a modest increase in income when corrected for inflation. Turns out we’re not alone:

“A new nationally representative study from the Lake Institute on Faith and Giving at Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy finds that revenue is not necessarily declining along with attendance….

“‘We’re not hiding the fact that there are many congregations experiencing decline, or that it’s a major success to be simply maintaining,’ said David P. King, director of the Lake Institute and a co-director of the study. ‘But despite a narrative of decline for religiosity in America, there’s a wide diversity of what’s happening. A decline in participation does not necessarily equate with (a decline) in finances.’ Or as the study succinctly states: ‘Among congregations that are declining in attendance, there is not necessarily an automatic corresponding decline in revenue.’ “

National Study of Congregations’ Economic Practices study.

2 thoughts on “Religious attendance may be down, but income is up”

  1. The socialist in me is not encouraged by the idea that churches are increasingly becoming institutions for richer Americans. But it may explain the UUA’s drift toward identitarianism over universalism.

  2. I’d love to see more detailed demographics on this. I suspect based on very little evidence this is a function of older congregants picking up more of the bills as they age. Like Hemingway said about bankruptcy–which is where such a trend would end, if it were not interrupted by some form of change–first it was slow, then it was fast.

    This on page nine isn’t terribly hopeful:

    We find that congregations with generational majorities of Boomer (55%) and Generation Xers (85%) reported the greatest growth in revenue. Millennial majority congregations, although a small proportion of the religious landscape, reported the highest percentage of congregations with decreases in size (74%) and revenue (68%) over the past 3 years.

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