NAD Tithe Down for the First Quarter

North American Division tithe fell 4.88% in the first quarter of 2020, tracking fairly closely to the 4.8% decline of the U.S. gross domestic product, the broadest measure of goods and services in the country. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome H. Powell told a news conference on April 29, 2020, that “We’re going to see economic data for the second quarter that’s worse than any data we’ve seen for the economy.” Will the same be true for tithe?

According to the North American Division Tithe Report, the 2020 first quarter tithe total for its 59 conferences and missions was $223,409,925.24. In the same period in 2019, tithe was $234,880,297.11, a difference of $11,470,371.87 (-4.88%). Eleven conferences/missions posted gains. Newfoundland, a mission with the smallest membership, saw the largest gain with a 60.19% gain from $105,909.17 in 2019 to $169,661.36. Wisconsin Conference posted a 14.31% gain, Oregon 9.57%, Golf States 6.98%, and Upper Columbia 4.72%. Other conferences posting gains were: South Central Conference, Arkansas-Louisiana, Southwest Region, Chesapeake, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Dakota, and Alaska.

North Pacific Union was the only one of the nine unions to post a gain. With three of its six conferences in the black, the union had an uptick of 3.39% in tithe dollars. All of the unions had at least one conference in positive numbers.

The five conferences with the largest membership numbers all experienced a decline in tithe. Southeastern California Conference with over 70,000 members saw a 12.87% decline compared to 2019. The Florida Conference (membership 64,863) was down 1.38%. In the Texas Conference with 62,304 members, the tithe was lower by 1.97%. Northeastern Conference’s tithe was off by 9.16% from its 60,355 members. Georgia-Cumberland Conference has 42,275 members and its tithe was just slightly down 0.73%.

The greatest declines in tithe were seen in the Rocky Mountain Conference 22.46%, New Jersey 20.82%, Montana 19.19%, Hawaii 16.53%, and Central States Conference 14.89%.

Strong tithe returns in January and February probably helped to keep the first quarter numbers from being worse. At one East Coast institutional church tithe went up significantly in February, surprising the pastoral staff to the extent that they requested the treasurer to rerun the numbers. But the drop off was significant in March, tithe down by 29.47% and church budget down 49.16%.

On the West Coast, an institutional church experienced an uptick in tithe of 10.48% in March 2020, compared to February 2020. But their February tithe had been down compared to 2019. Church budget numbers in March were down 28.86%.

“The deep lack of income will begin in May and will continue through this summer, at least,” says one conference president. “For years some lay members have been advising church administrators to adjust/modify our denominational structure (at least in NAD) in the areas of finances and personnel, or we would do it under pressure by the circumstances. I think the time has come unexpectedly, and now we will be forced to change our way of doing ‘business’ in our church in North America.”

A pastor predicts “this time” is going to stretch into months and years, so we’re talking about a new way of doing community ministry and “church.” At the core, the best way to thrive is to model the gracious love of Jesus.” He adds that “we need to communicate better — yes, through creative digital forms as well as through every mode of communication available.”

“We see our future primarily as participation, not exhortation,” he concludes. “When our church community is involved more, we give more, including financially. I see our task is involving more people to follow Jesus in creative and love-nourishing ways.”

At his West coast church, tithe went up significantly in February (51%) and then decreased in March (16%) compared to last year. But his treasurer notes that was because of one donor. “Giving patterns are hard to project month over month but may have greater meaning comparing quarter to quarter or longer periods of time.”

In a survey of Protestant pastors, the Barna Group reported that 44% of churches reported online attendance up compared to in person attendance before the pandemic. Giving, however, was down slightly.

Even with the first quarter tithe numbers in, church officials continue in waiting mode, to see what second quarter numbers look like, to see if more members use online giving as church worship services continue via Zoom calls and Facebook Live rather than in person.

Seventh-day Adventist Church North American Division Tithe Comparison March 2020:

Bonnie Dwyer is editor of Spectrum.

Photo by Allef Vinicius on Unsplash

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/10407

I appreciate you pointing that out; multiple factors affect individual months and quarters. People’s sources and timing of income make a difference as well. Weekly, biweekly, monthly. Sales of real estate and other high-priced wares. it all factors in. even one large donation can tip the scales dramatically for one month or quarter. As the article said–it’s impossible to be sure what the overall trend will be for the next quarter or for the year–except that it will almost certainly be down…

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When I zoom into my local church’s worship hour I almost feel more connected with the congregation than when attending in person.

My woman pastor has great screen presence and the various lay leaders participating, display charisma and charm.

Will this “ on line “ worship experience translate into adequate “on line “ giving ? Probably not. As the churches remain closed to communal,worship, fewer congregants will zoom, and congregants lacking the fellowship experience may drift away.

At least there will be a saving of heating / air conditioning / lighting in the local church structures, when no meeting activities occur.

The economic crisis, the layoffs, the businesses going bankrupt, cities towns, states impoverished, all have bad forebodings.

All my financial advisors are predicting a severe economic downfall rivaling the Great Depression of the thirties —- thé stock market high of 1929 was not replicated again until 1954—-revealing a recovery at a snail’s pace.

Our worst hit church elements will be our schools / academies / colleges. Families with curtailed income will not be able to afford the costly tuitions.

It would behoove the churches /. Conferences / Divisions /. General Conference to immediately form brain storming committees to plan for a vastly reduced cash flow.

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I don’t think that comparing tithe drop with GDP is viable, since these exist in two different scopes of economic performance benchmarks.

My guess would be that a large portion of tithes in Adventist churches comes from retired population that lives off retirement benefits, which never stopped flowing, and would actually get a bump for the retired population. I doubt that younger generation would account for drop in tithe numbers, since they are not in the church, and if they are they are not likely to be more generous.

I could be wrong, but my guess is that the drop is predominately due to the disruption in means of collecting the tithe than the economic shortfalls.

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It would be interesting to know whether there has been a corresponding drop in local church expense donations. This article only mentions church expense giving in one church. If there was an overall increase in church expense donations, however, it possibly could be considered an early indication of a trend of members donating “tithe” offerings to their local churches. It would be more difficult to track such donations to outside organizations.

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In view of the fact that many seniors or individuals with health issues will not feel comfortable in attending a public service–for the foreseeable future. This could have a long term effect on church income.

Thus it would be wise for the church leaders to start a round of consolidation of Union & local Conference offices. This will enable the Conference to give a tithe reversion to local churches for their school teachers and community outreach projects. With tithe reversion local churches could hire a mature teenager as an Elder/Pastor to relate with a younger generation, especially if the local elders and pastor are in the 60’s and 70’s.

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When thinking about income sources, don’t forget the GYC group. Although many of them are millennials, many of them are professionals now and dedicated to supporting the church. I don’t think seniors are the only ones supporting the church, locally or further.

You nailed it, Frank Peachman!

Many of both the Sabbath and Sunday worship hours I attend, are woefully geriatric.

The statistics are implacable and frightening:
Persons over seventy five have EIGHT TIMES the mortality from carona virus than those 56-64 and SIXTY FOLD that of young people.

The elderly demographic would be well advised to stop church attendance until there is more clarity on the epidemiology of this evil, lethal pathogen.

Some congregations have such a preponderance of seniors that on re-opening for services, the sanctuaries might well be empty.

And yes, I have for years, railed against the excessive layers of bureaucracy in our church structure —- entities dating from the horse and buggy age when travel was arduous.

Hopefully, the forthcoming depletion of cash flow, will be the final impetus to eliminate these excessive conference structures.

Problem is, there are so many vested interests to maintain the status quo.

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Arkdrey, being that the church doesn’t print it’s own money, it can only come from outside sources. And, those outside sources, mainly the everyday workforce, is taking a pretty big hit on their income.

30 million Americans have filed initial unemployment claims:
https://www.cnn.com/2020/04/30/economy/unemployment-benefits-coronavirus/index.html

And even those that are seeking compensation receive less than their normal income. But, many are having trouble receiving that even.

https://www.salon.com/2020/05/02/more-than-70-of-jobless-americans-did-not-receive-march-unemployment-benefits-study/

So, it stands to reason that this will have a pretty strong effect on tithes and offerings for quite awhile.

Caddy

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You seem to be responding to the only paragraph that doesn’t reflect the point I was making if it was read in isolation from everything else I said above it.

The question is about what percentage of NAD funding comes from retired population which isn’t affected by this crisis in terms of the loss of income. They will actually be getting more this year.

So, my point was that modeling and corelating GDP drop and drop in tithing revenues makes very little economic sense if indeed we can assume that the majority of NAD tithes are coming from population that are collecting retirement benefits and who are historically more loyal givers and have more wealth than people in 20-50 demo who may still be living paycheck to paycheck with little to no savings.

We have a retired US airforce colonel in our congregation who tithes more than all of the people under 40 combined. Granted we don’t have many people in the 18-40 year old demographic. And people in 40-65 demo are not that abundant either, and they generally have financial issues due to health and family expense.

So, my guess is that the majority of the NAD funding wouldn’t be coming from working class families. It would be coming from older generation who was able to establish and accumulate wealth the past, who don’t have mortgages to worry about, and who are generally more loyal than they are seeking some value in return for their money. The very same people who include church in their wills.

I could be wrong, but it would be interesting to dig up demographics of those who pay tithes, if such statistics are even kept by NAD.

I hope it makes sense.

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