A new survey from The Barna Group shows that more than 150 million Americans said they have been affected by the economic turbulence, and are now passing on their financial pain to churches and other non-profit organizations by cutting back substantially on their giving during the fourth quarter of 2008.
Barna reports that two out of every three families — 68 percent — have been noticeably affected by the financial setbacks in America. Nearly one out of every four (22%) said they have been impacted in a "major way." Interestingly, the people least affected have been those under 30 years of age — perhaps because relatively few of them have substantial retirement funds — as well as Asian households and those who describe themselves as mostly conservative on social and political issues.
Born-again adults were slightly less likely than were others to have sustained such substantial financial losses in recent months. While 30 percent of the born-again public has lost 20 percent or more of its retirement portfolio value, the same was true for 37 percent of non-born-again adults. Similarly, just 31 percent of the born-again segment had lost 20 percent or more of the value of their stocks and bonds compared to 36 percent among the non-born-again Christians.
During the past three months, one of the ways that adults have adjusted to their financial hardships has been by reducing their charitable giving. In total, one out of every five households (20%) has decreased its giving to churches or other religious centers.
The degree of reduction in giving is significant for churches. Among people who have decreased giving to churches and religious centers, 29 percent dropped their giving by as much as 20 percent, five percent decreased their generosity by 21 percent to 49 percent, 17 percent reduced their giving by half, and 11 percent sliced their provision by more than half. In addition, 22 percent said they had stopped their giving altogether.
The Barna study revealed than many churches have attempted to help their congregants understand and responsibly address the current financial challenges. Among those who attend a Christian church, the survey found that one-third (35%) said their church had offered a special talk about the financial situation; 37 percent said their church had offered opportunities for personal financial counseling; 73 percent of those who were struggling financially were provided with special prayer support, and 52 percent said that their church had increased the amount of material assistance made available to congregants during the past three months.
Visit Barna.org to view the complete report.