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The Vital Signs Of Church Giving: Understanding & Acting On The Data

Imagine you begin to exhibit health concerns, and you present various symptoms that give rise to concern. One response you could make would be to consult the information superhighway (the Internet), which will give a broad range of possible illnesses from one end of the spectrum to the other. Another response would be to consult a physician, so you make the appointment and arrive on time – carefully sharing an accurate description of what you have been experiencing.

The doctor wisely orders several tests in an attempt to identify the problem. You’re not interested in guesswork; you want hard data, which is what medical tests provide. After all, data always precedes diagnosis. Once the diagnosis is made, then a treatment plan is formulated to restore your physical health.

In my experience, most people have an intuitive hunch that something is wrong. Yes, some have devastating and even fatal diseases at work without their knowledge. But most of the time we know if that is going on. What we do with that intuition can be the difference between life and death. Some may shrug it off, propping themselves up with the idea that it’s probably nothing and will eventually sort itself. Others, however, are proactive and determined to live according to the truth – however frightening it may be.

Let’s translate this metaphor into the realm of stewardship and generosity. As a church leader, you are tasked with keeping a finger on the pulse of giving and the discipleship of your givers. But how you feel about your church’s giving can be biased and even dismissed. It’s easy to get lulled into the allure of “up and to the right.” As long as the end result is tolerable, you can keep moving forward. 

But, data doesn’t lie.

What you feel about your church’s giving may not equal what is really taking place in that particular aspect of your giver’s spiritual formation. For example, you may have a top giver that gives $100,000 per year. That’s great, right? But what if that giver earns $10 million per year? 

The data doesn’t lie. We can either ignore it at our own peril, or we can embrace it and begin to develop a treatment plan. The 2023 MortarStone Generosity Report is equivalent to the testing that a doctor might order for a patient; empirical data, unlike survey results, is what it is. It’s truthful, somewhat like a five-year-old with no filter. Data is also agnostic; it doesn’t choose sides or have an agenda. It’s honest and without opinion. 

The test results are in, and what we see from the results gives cause for concern:

  • Inflation has negated our budgetary growth.
  • Generations born before 1980 are in double-digit decline.
  • It will take 10 Generation Z givers to replace one Baby Boomer.
  • For every new giver we add, we lose one.
  • Churches are increasingly dependent on those born before 1964.
  • 20% of our giving comes from the top 1% of our givers.

Those aren’t opinions. Those are our givers. For some churches, those symptoms are strong. For others, they may not be visible … yet.

I believe the answer is not a campaign. There are no quick fixes, especially when the diagnosis is concerning. The answer lies in a discipleship strategy that is led and embraced by senior leadership and church governance. Like the U.S. President, the pastor is the pacesetter for delivering a clear and compelling vision for the future. As Commander in Chief, the President is also responsible for anticipating and addressing any challenging threats on the horizon. However, they cannot do it alone. As a member of the Cabinet and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, you have a responsibility to provide the best information and data possible to those positioned in leadership and advise them accordingly. You don’t have to be an alarmist. But you have been tasked to be a problem solver, armed with data, to help the one who holds the compass. 

This responsibility involves the courage to face the truth, and the creativity to recommend solutions to fuel the current mission and fund future sustainability. MortarStone is here to help in any way possible; we are “from the pew and for the people.” We’d love to offer a free 30-minute conversation to help you assess your particular context in light of the data from our Annual Generosity Report!

For more information about how MortarStone can help your church increase giving and engagement, get in touch with us today! To stay up to the minute with the latest trends, our current research, and feature releases regarding generosity and legacy giving, including our 2023 Annual Generosity Report, follow MortarStone on LinkedIn, Facebook, X, and Instagram.


Tim Deatrick, D.Min., CAP

Director of Giver Engagement