In April, I wrote about growing concerns that the financial fallout from COVID-19 (shutdowns, layoffs, market decline) could seriously disrupt church giving.
I noted that while the months ahead might lead to financial disaster for local churches, it was also quite possible that believers would rise to the challenge. I speculated that Christians, giving from obedient hearts and according to their means, might demonstrate a remarkable level of "generosity [that] will result in thanksgiving to God" (2 Corinthians 9:11).
Four months later, I am happy to report that the optimistic scenario seems to be unfolding — at least based on the latest "State of the Plate" report (PDF) from the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE).
A story at MinistryWatch.com has the details:
The new State of the Plate research finds that close to two-thirds (64%) of churches across the country reported in August that giving is either up (22%) or steady (42%). By contrast, in April, a similar share of churches (65%) said they had seen a drop in giving....
The findings are based on responses from 1,076 mainline, evangelical and independent Protestant churches. Seven in 10 of [the congregations] had [fewer] than 200 attenders before the pandemic. A third of the responding churches were in cities or suburbs, almost another third were from towns, about a quarter were from rural areas or small towns and 9% were from large cities....
The research, conducted Aug. 7-30 in partnership with Christianity Today's Church Law & Tax, had a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.
Unfortunately, the survey's data are not detailed. We don't know specifics about the range of "ups" and "downs," for example (giving could be up a lot or only slightly).
Still, Brian Kluth, head of the NAE's Financial Health initiative, is upbeat.
"This is encouraging news for churches across America.... These new findings show that most churches and their families are figuring out ways to survive and even thrive in the midst of all the challenges that the pandemic has thrown their way."
Kluth also emphasized that, despite the latest encouraging data, 2020 "has been an especially stressful year for pastors and church staff."
It certainly has — and that's a good reason to consider some of the ideas Kluth offers at the NAE's BlessYourPastor.org site.
For more about Bless Your Pastor, and the NAE's Financial Health project for local churches, check out this recent MinistryWatch podcast, hosted by my friend Warren Smith.