Poll – Protestant churches are more financially healthy now than before pandemic

by Seth Udinski

Seth Udinski, FISM News

In some positive news in Christianity, a recent Lifeway Research poll found that Protestant churches in America are generally more financially healthy than they were seven years ago.

The study came about in 2022 because, according to LifeWay’s annual church health poll, 2022 was the first year since 2016 that most pastors claimed the financial troubles of the US economy were harming their churches.

The researchers at Lifeway compared their recent findings, conducted in September of 2022, with a similar study from 2016. Research shows that fewer Protestant churches have less than 16 weeks’ worth of emergency savings than the 2016 number.

In 2016, 50% of churches indicated that they possess under 16 weeks’ worth of emergency savings. That number dropped to 44% in 2022.

Additionally, the number of churches with healthy amounts of savings has grown slightly. In 2016, 27% of churches had between 16 weeks and 1 year’s worth of savings, compared to 32% today. 23% had over a year’s worth in 2016, a number that has ticked up ever so slightly to 24% currently.

Head of LifeWay Research Scott McConnell said,

When hardships impact an organization, financial leaders carefully watch how much cash is on hand and how quickly they are spending it. Very rarely does cash stop coming in completely, though some churches experienced that for a few weeks in 2020. But hardships such as a financial recession can impact church receipts and force the use of cash reserves to get by. While improved, there are still too many churches with too little money in the bank given the uncertainties of 2023.

The poll also revealed that embezzlement reports in churches have decreased slightly since 2016, from 9% to 8%.

Author’s Biblical Analysis

This report brings to mind an important reminder for Christians: We must be wise with our money.

Jesus spoke often about money, and I believe He did this on purpose. The reason is because, as Financial Issues host Shana Burt always says, “Money makes the world go ’round.”

Jesus understood that money, while a necessary aspect of every functioning society, is very often a prime temptation the enemy uses to solicit the heart of man away from the one true God.

No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.  – Matthew 6:24

Since money is both a dangerous temptation and a necessary phenomenon, we must be wise with it. But how do we do this?

As we do in all things, we must seek the Lord for wisdom, knowing He will provide it for us (Proverbs 2). With that as our anchor, let me give you several practical things to consider as you seek to be wise with your money as a follower of Jesus Christ.

First, provide for the needs of your family and loved ones. It is not wrong for Christians to have wealth. But what we do with this wealth is what matters. If you are seeking wealth to live in excess, you have crossed into the realm of greed. But if you seek to earn an income to take care of the people whom God has placed in your care, you are being obedient to Him.

Second, be generous. When we bless others with the abundance God has given to us, we are acting in line with His heart. After all, God is immeasurably generous (James 1:17). Be generous with your wealth, first to your church, and then to other people or institutions that promote the gospel (missionaries, organizations, charities, etc.).

Third, seek to leave a lasting legacy. This is where it would be wise for Christians to consider investing. If you are in a season of life where you have some money that you can invest for your children and grandchildren or God-honoring organizations, consider becoming a partner of Financial Issues and using the FISM investment strategy.

Finally, hold everything you have with open hands. Our ministry’s founder, Dan Celia, who entered glory one year ago, used to end his radio program every day with this reminder to his listeners: “Remember folks, it’s all His. Let’s be found good and faithful stewards of everything the Lord has given to us.”

Everything you have ultimately belongs to the Lord. Remember that you are a steward, a temporary caretaker, of the wealth you have. None of it belongs to you. It all belongs to God.

And remember the promise and reward for those who are faithful to God. Our Lord Jesus promises us that a far greater reward awaits us in eternity, one that will never fade or be destroyed.

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  – Matthew 6:20-21