Volunteering Can't Substitute for Tithing, Most Pastors Believe; But Congregants Disagree, Study Shows
A majority of pastors don't believe volunteering at church can take the place of tithing, according to a recent study. But most of all Christians don't seem to share the same view.
The Barna Group study released on August 1 explored differences between pastors and Christians in general when it comes to giving. It found that while 67 percent of pastors strongly disagree with the idea that "it is okay for members to volunteer for their church instead of giving financially," the general Christian population was more nuanced in their responses.
Only 10 percent of Christians strongly disagreed with the idea, and 11 percent somewhat disagreed.
The largest proportion (31 percent) neither agreed nor disagreed. More than a quarter (29 percent) somewhat agreed that volunteering can substitute for financial giving, and 18 percent strongly agreed.
Barna pointed to the fact that more pastors speak about volunteering than about tithing at the pulpit, and that that may be one factor for the gap.
"Only 39 percent of pastors say they or other leaders speak from the pulpit about tithing or giving to the church at least once a month (17% once per month, 22% multiple times per month," the study states. "But more than six in 10 say they or other leaders speak from the pulpit at least once a month on the topic of volunteering (35% once, 27% multiple times)."
"So, by their own estimates, pastors talk about volunteering much more often than they talk about financial giving. Thus, it's no surprise that at least some of their congregants believe serving is an acceptable substitute for tithing," it added.
The study was also quick to note that those who were more generous financially to the church were also more likely to be generous with their time and energy in volunteering. For instance, 45 percent of those who give more $2,500 or more annually to the church said they volunteered within the past week. Only about half (21 percent) of those who give less than $50 to the church annually said the same.
Meanwhile, numerous other aspects regarding giving was explored in the study. For instance, when asked what generosity "always" is, Christians were more likely to say that their giving is "always" a "spur-of-the-moment" action (11 percent, compared with 2 percent of pastors), and "driven by compassion" (40 percent, compared with 30 percent of pastors). The largest proportion of both pastors and Christians said that generosity is always "a response to Christ's love" (66 percent and 47 percent, respectively).