CULTURE DIGEST: Only 5% of adults tithed last year, Barna survey says
By Erin Roach
May 2, 2008
Within the randomly selected group of 1,006 adults surveyed, Christians tended to give more than others, The Barna Group said in a news release in mid-April.
"Among the most generous segments were evangelicals (24 percent of whom tithed); conservatives (12 percent); people who had prayed, read the Bible and attended a church service during the past week (12 percent); charismatic or Pentecostal Christians (11 percent); and registered Republicans (10 percent)," Barna said.
The segments of society who were highly unlikely to tithe included people under the age of 25, atheists and agnostics, single adults who have never been married, liberals and adults who make less than $20,000 per year, the research indicated.
Barna explained that the idea of a tithe originated in the Old Testament as the tax that Israelites paid from the produce of the land to support the Levites, to fund Jewish religious festivals and to help the poor. Since the New Testament, Barna said Christians have believed in generous giving but have not necessarily put a number on the percentage expected.
The average amount given to nonprofits by U.S. adults last year was $1,308, Barna reported, and one-third of all adults gave away $1,000 or more. Almost two-thirds of adults donated at least a small amount of money to a place of worship, Barna said, and 96 percent of evangelicals gave money to a church.
One of the key findings Barna noted is a change regarding where Christians choose to give their money. The percentage of evangelical and non-evangelical born-again adults who gave money to churches dropped to its lowest level this decade -- 76 percent. Many Christians are now giving their money to different types of organizations rather than a church, he said.
"They attend conventional churches less often. They are expanding their circle of Christian relationships beyond local church boundaries. And they are investing greater amounts of their time and money in service organizations that are not connected with a conventional church," Barna said. "That doesn't make such giving inappropriate or less significant. It's just a different way of addressing social needs.
"... If this transition in the perceptions and giving behavior of born again adults continues to accelerate, the service functions of conventional churches will be redefined within the next eight to 10 years, and conventional churches will have to adopt new ways of assisting people in need," he said.