Financial “rules of thumb” for churches help pastors know if their people are practicing Biblical stewardship and can aid lenders and other financial providers in determining the financial health of the congregation. Certainly economic conditions affect the local church, but the following measures can generally be applied in the United States:
- The average weekly contributions from living members should equal at least $20 per worship attender. While we can include giving to many different ministries, this amount should be calculated by using only those ministries of the local church. Someone who gives designated funds to another ministry through the church for giving credit (i.e. Parachurch ministry, specific missions project) should not be included.
- Total contributions should be double that of fifteen years ago—to keep pace with inflation. People often maintain a consistent level of giving (i.e. $100/month) regardless of the passage of time. Such giving usually is not connected to the practice of tithing or increases in personal income. For this reason, the income of many churches struggle to keep pace with inflation.
- While some churches request financial information to determine if someone is tithing, most would be uncomfortable with such an approach. To calculate the number of tithers in a church, one can use an annual giving figure such as $2,000 or $2,500 to identify the list of tithers.
- A church that uses less than 25% of its resources for ministries, benevolence, and missions/outreach will have difficulty achieving growth. Given the diversity of ministries today, it is difficult to determine a consistent standard for the percentage of expenses dedicated to salaries, facilities, and administration, so such numbers should be viewed with flexibility. Large congregations (over 500) can generally use 40-50% as a standard for salaries, benefits, and administrative costs and 20-30% for facilities costs, provided these combined don’t exceed 75%.
Next week we’ll look at a few more “rules of thumb” for the local church.