The Accelerators in High-Percentage-Tithing Presbyterian Churches

The percentage of worshipers giving 10% or more of their income to their local Presbyterian church clearly distinguishes one church from another. Yet Presbyterian churches are demographically and behaviorally different from the average conservative Protestant congregation, where high-percentage giving is more common. Are factors like the gender ratio and participation levels associated with high-percentage-tithing in Presbyterian churches as well?

Some features of Presbyterian churches are “accelerators” for 10% giving—Presbyterian churches with these characteristics have higher percentages of tithers.

More conservative worshipers. In Presbyterian churches where more worshipers describe themselves as conservative on theological issues, more worshipers give at the 10% level. A belief in the biblical mandate to tithe is one component of a more conservative theological tradition. This is belief lived out in their actions.

More weekly attendees. In Presbyterian congregations where a larger proportion of worshipers attend weekly or more often, the percentage of tithers is also higher. Previous research shows that individuals who participate more in church services and activities also tend to be regular financial contributors. At the congregational level, increasing the engagement level of worshipers also increases the revenue generated by individual donations. Keep in mind that even when other seemingly important church factors are taken into account, this association remains.

More male worshipers. In Presbyterian churches, the gender ratio is another important factor in giving levels. When the ratio of men to women rises closer to 50/50, percentage giving at the 10% level rises too.

Larger congregations. Despite everything else, size continues to play a role. Larger congregations tend to have higher percentages of worshipers giving at the 10% level. Size is an organizational dynamic related to giving levels that represents a challenge for smaller Presbyterian churches. Larger churches have more resources, bigger agendas, and seem to attract individuals with more resources. All churches—large, small, or mid-size—can focus on the need for the giver to give rather than the needs of the church.

The Bottom Line

What can pastors and church leaders do to encourage worshipers to give generously?

  • Emphasize the spiritual dimension and Biblical foundation for giving—rather than the church budget or the need to fund church programs.
  • Encourage participation through meaningful worship services and activities that nurture spiritual growth.
  • Foster an atmosphere that attracts all members of the family to congregational activities (for example, style of worship, diverse programs).
  • Find ways to recognize every gift and every giver as important for the church’s mission.