Although the offerings in most American churches have met or exceeded budget requirements in 2011, the economy is still having a negative impact on local congregations.

That’s the finding of a LifeWay Research survey of 1,000 Protestant pastors conducted in May and compared with similar surveys from November 2009 through January 2011.

According to the recently released survey, nearly three-quarters (71 percent) of pastors report 2011 offerings at or in excess of their budget requirements. That includes 25 percent with offerings exceeding budget requirements and 46 percent with offerings approximately at budget level.

Twenty-two percent of pastors report lower offerings in 2011 than 2010. Thirty-nine percent report an increase from 2010 and 36 percent say offerings are at about the same level as last year. On average, churches report a 2 percent increase in 2011.

Churches with larger worship attendance are more likely to have increased offerings. Nearly half (49 percent) of congregations with 100-249 attendees report increased offerings from 2010, as do 47 percent of congregations with 250 or more.

In comparison, 34 percent of churches with 50-99 attendees and 23 percent of those with 0-49 report increased offerings this year. Pastors identifying themselves as “mainline” (45 percent) are more likely to have increased offerings than those who identify themselves as “evangelical” (38 percent).

When asked how the current economy is impacting their churches, a majority of pastors (67 percent) report negative impact.

That includes 58 percent who say the economy is affecting their church “somewhat negatively” and 9 percent who say it is affecting their church “very negatively.”

The findings are similar to what pastors said in January 2011 but more negative than their opinions in March 2010, when only 62 percent said the economy was affecting their congregations negatively.

 

"Just as there are some positive signs in the U.S. economy, we are seeing more churches with some growth in offerings for 2011,” said Scott McConnell, director of LifeWay Research, part of the publishing arm of the Southern Baptist Convention. “However, average gains are small and not all churches will benefit depending on their local economy and the overall health of their church.”