"Suppose your church made a new requirement for church membership: members must give ten percent of their after-tax income to the church or other good causes. Those giving less than ten percent could still attend church, but would not be considered members in good standing. How would you most likely respond to this requirement?"
This was the basis of a study of active American Christians reported in a recent book, From Passing the Plate: Why American Christians Don't Give Away More Money by Smith, Emerson & Snell, Oxford Univ. Press, 2008.
Studies show that pastors struggle with tithing and giving issues with their congregation more often than just about any other subject. Some pastors won't even preach on money or tithing, because it causes too much commotion or they just feel that ministry shouldn't focus on the topic. Most pastors do not require their church membership to tithe in order to remain a member in good standing. However, most pastors would agree (and current statistics prove) that too few of their church members tithe. But it wouldn't be surprising if a moderate percentage of pastors had at least considered requiring the tithe as a provision of membership, particularly in today's economic climate, and even if they are just dreaming.
But it seems that the idea of requiring a tithe might backfire on today's churches. 51% of American Christians would either drop out of church or move to a different church if required to tithe. Only 7% said they would just start giving ten percent. 16% said they already give ten percent of their income. 25% would continue to attend, but they would give less than ten percent. 35% said they would move to a church that doesn't have this requirement, and 16% said they would drop out of church life altogether.
INNOVATIONewsletter - March 20, 2009