Three out of four Christian households experienced stagnant or declining income levels during the past year. However, many of those households have managed to keep debt levels under control, according to results from the second annual View from the Pew, a constituency survey of 1,029 Christian households conducted during the first half of 2010 by Maximum Generosity and Christianity Today International.
Only 23 percent of households saw their family's income increase from the previous 12 months. Meanwhile, as the U.S. economic recession continued, 44 percent saw their income stay the same and 33 percent saw their income go down.
Challenges with income did not necessarily result in higher levels of debt, however. The primary debt obligation for 64 percent of respondents was a home mortgage, according to the survey; only 35 percent of households reported car payments, and 70 percent said they actively pay off their credit cards in full every month.
"It's a sign that a growing number of people are learning to actively eliminate and avoid debt," said Brian Kluth with Maximum Generosity.
The View from the Pew results are consistent with ones uncovered earlier this year through the second annual State of the Plate, another constituency survey conducted by Maximum Generosity and Christianity Today International.
"Nearly 40 percent of churches across the country experienced a decline in giving and offerings in 2009, marking two consecutive years of declines," said Matt Branaugh, editorial director with Christianity Today International's Church Management Team. "It's not surprising to see that the economic pinch in Christian households coincided with the giving trends reported by church leaders."
In an encouraging sign for churches, 78 percent of those surveyed in the View from the Pew said they continue to give 10 percent or more of their income to local churches and ministries. When asked when they learned this practice, 60 percent said it was before age 30.
"This shows tithing and generosity start young and become a lifelong practice," Kluth said.
The View from the Pew results may help church leaders as they work to further understand the financial situations people in their church face–and how those situations influence weekly giving patterns and budget plans. For an Executive Summary with media charts/graphs and access to the complete research data, go to ChurchLawAndTaxStore.com.
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