Stewardship Attitudes Research Project

Project Number: 
Start Date: 
Wed, 01/01/1992

Sylvia and John Ronsvalle undertook this study on individual, congregational, and denominational factors that affect levels and kinds of giving to religious institutions. Previous studies have suggested that per-member giving as a percentage of income has been declining over the past few decades. This project investigated this decline and the attitude and behavioral patterns that may be producing it. Denominational giving reports appearing in the Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches were analyzed in order to produce annual updates of the report, The State of Church Giving through 1989. Congregational observations and interviews of pastors and denominational officials supplemented these data. A Stewardship Project Survey was distributed with the cooperation of 14 Protestant denominational stewardship officials and one seminary development officer. A total of 244 surveys were returned and the analysis of this information and data became the basis of the Ronsvalles' book, Behind The Stained Glass Window: Money Dynamics in the Church. They argue that churches have a pre- 1950s mind set toward money and have not provided a positive agenda in an age of affluence. With the rise of consumerism, smaller amounts of resources are available for personal giving. Frequently, the authors found, church members viewed giving as a fee-for- service responsibility rather than as a biblical imperative. In addition, congregations were keeping a higher percentage of income within the congregation compared to previous generations, resulting in decreases in funding to denominations as well as missions and benevolence. Despite these serious issues, church leaders appear reluctant to educate parishioners in biblical principles about the use of money. (SM)