More than three-quarters of U.S. Protestants say the biblical requirement to donate 10% of one’s earnings still applies and half actually do so, according to a survey from an evangelical research group.
Lifeway Research released on Tuesday results from a September poll showing that 77% of churchgoers say tithing “is a biblical command that still applies today,” down 6 percentage points from a 2017 survey.
About 31% said they give a full tithe, and 19% said they donate more than 10% of their earnings. About 19% said they regularly give less than a full tithe, 22% said they are inconsistent in their giving and 9% said their finances make it difficult for them to give. Only 2% said they don’t make donations.
In tandem with a slight decline of those who profess the importance of tithing, 10% said tithing no longer applies today, up 2 percentage points from 2017, and 13% said they were unsure, up 3 points from 2017.
“Giving 10% of your earnings to God is still a widespread standard among churchgoers,” Lifeway Research Executive Director Scott McConnell said in a statement. “The small decline in considering tithing a command appears to be more from a lack of teaching on the subject than a rejection of such teaching.”
Evangelicals, at 85%, are more likely to say “tithing is biblical and currently applicable,” versus 71% of Protestants who did not identify as evangelical. Those who attend worship services at least four times a month are more likely to agree with that statement (80%) than those who attend worship one to three times a month (72%).
Young adult churchgoers, whom the survey defined as between 18 and 34 years of age, are least likely to say the tithing command still applies, with only 66% affirming this. Lutherans, at 59%, are the denominational group least likely to support this, the survey found.
“Believing God wants you to tithe and doing it are two different things,” Mr. McConnell said. “Some who do not tithe are consistent with their giving at a lower threshold, and others give when they feel they are able. Like many exhortations in Scripture, giving your finances to God is not necessarily easy in practice.”
Where Christians believe tithes can go is also changing. Most surveyed — 90% — said donations can be given to their church, but 55% also said any Christian ministry is a worthy recipient.
Giving tithes to “an individual in need” was acceptable to 42% of respondents, while 34% said tithes can go to a congregation they don’t regularly attend. One in 4 of said tithes can go to a secular charity, up from 18% in a 2017 poll.
And donation methods are evolving. While 62% of churchgoers use the non-electronic giving methods for their donations, more congregants are favoring electronic giving methods, the polling showed, with giving via a church website chosen by 23% of such donors. Text message donations are used by 2% of congregants, while 8% have automated donations in place.
Lifeway Research conducted its online survey Sept. 19-29, with a sampling margin of error not greater than plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.
The full results of the poll are online at https://research.lifeway.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/04/Sept-2022-American-Churchgoers-Tithing-Report.pdf.
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