Financial Resources of Growing Presbyterian Churches: More or Less?

On the surface, growing PC(USA) congregations have two things going for them. Growing churches:

  • Are bigger than the typical Presbyterian church. The median size of the denomination’s fastest-growing churches is 150 (based on average worship attendance). That is twice the size of other Presbyterian churches—their median worship attendance is 78.
  • Receive more in contributions and have larger budgets, which support more staff. Growing churches report median annual incomes (from all sources) of $336,668. That figure is about twice the size of the income reported by other Presbyterian churches—$165,875 annually.

Similarities: Income and Operating Expenses. However, looking beneath these differences reveals something else. Do worshipers in growing churches actually give more than typical Presbyterians? No. In fact, the contributions per person are similar in the two types of churches: worshipers give an annual average of $1,763 in growing churches; worshipers in other congregations give about the same amount—$1,807 a year.

Two other similarities between the two groups of churches have to do with their budgets. The percentage of congregational income that comes from worshipers’ donations (94% in growing churches vs. 88% in other churches) is almost identical. Likewise, the percentage of the congregation’s budget that goes to operating expenses (88% in growing churches vs. 86% in other churches) is very similar.

Finances 110
Differences: Increasing Finances and Stewardship Campaigns. More growing churches than other congregations report that they are in decent financial shape. Almost twice as many growing churches (29%) as other PC(USA) churches (only 15%) describe their congregation as having an increasing financial base. The largest share in both groups has a stable financial situation. In contrast, about one in ten growing churches say that their financial base is actually declining. But almost four times that many other Presbyterian churches (38%) state that this is their financial situation.

Finance health 110More growing Presbyterian churches (85%) than other PC(USA) congregations (74%) conduct an annual stewardship campaign. Does that make a difference in the overall giving? There is evidence that it does. In both groups of congregations, about half of the worshipers give 5% or more of their income to the congregation (54% for both groups). In larger congregations if more people give 5% or more, far more dollars flow into the overall budget.

Growing pains? More worshipers means more programs, more staff, and greater expenses. Numerical church growth sometimes races ahead of the congregation’s finances. Yet most of the fastest-growing Presbyterian churches appear to be handling the gap between more people and more financial demands.