State of the Plate Thoughts

For those of us in the biz (…showbiz…I mean church biz…) we’ve heard a bit about this report which has recently been called The State of the Plate. This is a study of 4,413 self-identified tithers on their habits in giving, reasons for giving, impact of their giving, and other important data. It was release a couple of weeks ago and available from The State of The Plate’s website in a downloadbale ebook for $24.95.

After purchasing and downloading a copy, I read through the report over lunch yesterday and have a few thoughts.

  • The data in this study is very well put together and will aid the pastor and teacher.
  • From the report, I am impressed with how different families who tithe are better off financially. (see the chart)
  • We can draw a direct correlation (I believe) between higher levels of spiritual maturity, or at least practices indicating maturity, and those who give at a high level. From the report: 96% of tithers attend services once a week. 
  • Those who tithe start early and have parents or grandparents as models of giving. This is how it worked in my family. My $10/week allowance always required me to put $1 in the collection plate every Sunday.
  • The 80/20 rule was confirmed in their research. 20% of our churchgoers support 80% of the budget. Yet that 20% is highly committed to the strength and growth of our churches, we should honor them appropriately. (note: not lavishly.)
  • If you couple the data from this report with another, recent Barna Report, you will have quite the statistical data set for understanding giving patterns in the local American church world. The Barna Research report was reported in April.
  • One of the points of the survey discusses how only 25% of tithers (committed givers) have an estate plan in place which gives to their local church. I made a note on my copy that, while not surprising, should provoke us to think more strategically about how we can talk to individuals and families about afterlife bequests. (Honestly, in all my years of attending church, I’ve never heard a pastor or leader mention this to their people.)
  • Though I’m all for calling something by its biblical name, perhaps a more apt term for churches to describe this giving is committed giving.
  • In the back of the study there are charts with links, a strategy for incorporating teaching on generosity (the new watchword for giving), and plenty of charts. This is a well rounded survey.

The data in the report is rather eye opening and it has been arranged in some great charts that are eye catching and informative. It is certainly worth you read.

It isn’t a perfect survey by any stretch. One key piece of statistical data I would like to see is the average age of tithers, committed givers. If the Barna, and other surveys, data is correct our most committed givers are growing older and older and not being replaced by younger families. This should be concerning for us.

All that said, I am definitely encouraged by the trend in discussing “generosity” in our churches. Leadership Network has some great resources and best practices on this. So, go and get this eBook and dig into its data. You’ll be encouraged and challenged.


How are you incorporating teaching/preaching on generosity in your church? Have you read this survey? What did you think?

As a note, I did not receive this survey or any other consideration in reviewing the materials. This is a completely objective review.