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March 13, 2012

Is Income Exceeding Expenses at Your Church?

Study shows more churches have experienced deficit spending.

Findings from the 2012-2013 Compensation Handbook for Church Staff reveal that the overall percentage of churches operating in the black—income EXCEEDS expenses—declined in almost every region.


The biggest drop in churches occurred in these five regions:

• West-South Central (32%, down from 45% in 2009)
• South Atlantic (27%, down from 33% in 2009)
• Middle Atlantic (25%, down from 33% in 2009)
• Mountain (25%, down from 39% in 2009)

In our survey, we asked: Over the past year, which best describes your church's finances? 1) Income below expenses; 2) Income meets expenses; 3) Income exceeds expenses

Depending on whether survey respondents interpreted the word “income” to mean just weekly offerings or total income, including such sources as endowments and other funds, the percentages on the map below simply provide a snapshot of their income and spending at the time they answered the survey question. What we can’t tell from this data is whether these churches are closing out each year in the red or black.

Typically, 48 percent of a church's income/budget is devoted to salaries. According to Warren Bird, research director of Leadership Network, that average for staffing costs also holds true for larger churches (attendances of 2,000 to 20,000).

Marian V. Liautaud is editor of Church Management Resources at Christianity Today and served as editor of the 2012-2013 Compensation Handbook for Church Staff.

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