Passing the Plate: Why American Christians Don't Give Away More Money

Passing the Plate: Why American Christians Don't Give Away More Money

Passing the Plate: Why American Christians Don't Give Away More Money

Passing the Plate: Why American Christians Don't Give Away More Money

Synopsis

Passing the Plate shows that few American Christians donate generously to religious and charitable causes--a parsimony that seriously undermines the work of churches and ministries. Far from the 10 percent of one's income that tithing requires, American Christians' financial giving typically amounts, by some measures, to less than one percent of annual earnings. And a startling one out of five self-identified Christians gives nothing at all. This eye-opening book explores the reasonsbehind such ungenerous giving, the potential world-changing benefits of greater financial giving, and what can be done to improve matters. If American Christians gave more generously, say the authors, any number of worthy projects--from the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS to the promotion of inter-religious understanding to the upgrading of world missions--could be funded at astounding levels. Analyzing a wide range of social surveys and government and denominational statistical datasets and drawing on in-depth interviews with Christian pastors and church members in seven different states, the book identifies a crucial set of factors that appear to depress religious financial support--among them the powerful allure of a mass-consumerist culture and its impact on Americans' priorities, parishioners' suspicions of waste and abuse by nonprofit administrators, clergy hesitations to boldly ask for money, and the lack of structure and routine in the way most American Christians give away money. In their conclusion, the authors suggest practical steps that clergy and lay leaders might take to counteract these tendencies and better educate their congregations about the transformative effects of generous giving. By illuminating the social and psychological forces that shape charitable giving, Passing the Plate is sure to spark a much-needed debate on a critical issue.

Excerpt

This book attempts to help solve a riddle: why is it that American Christians give away so relatively little of their money? Contemporary American Christians are among the wealthiest of their faith in the world today and probably the most affluent single group of Christians in two thousand years of church history. They have a lot of money—as we will see in chapter 1. Nearly all American Christians also belong to churches that teach believers, as stewards of the belongings with which God has blessed them, to give money generously for the work of God’s kingdom, as we will see in appendix A. Most Christians belong to churches that teach tithing—the giving of 10 percent of one’s income. Most American Christians also profess to want to see the gospel preached in the world, the hungry fed, the church strengthened, and the poor raised to enjoy lives of dignity and hope—all tasks that normally require money. And yet, despite all of this, American Christians give away relatively little money to religious and other purposes. A sizeable number of Christians give no money, literally nothing. Most of the rest of American Christians give little sums of money. Only a small percent of American Christians give money generously, in proportion to what their churches call them to give. All of the evidence, we will see, points to the same conclusion: when it comes to sharing their money, most contemporary American Christians are remarkably ungenerous.

The goal of this book is not to morally chide or condemn American Christians for their tightfistedness. We do not need to. The numbers speak for themselves. And many other previous books and journal articles have also . . .

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