Do Churches Waste Tithe Money?

A 2022 Barna research study shows that only one in five Christians are tithing 10% or more.[1] One of the excuses I hear for why many believers aren’t giving the full tithe today is that the church wastes money. Their rationale is, if you’re just throwing your hard-earned wages down a money pit, why give?

Let’s look at a few ways that people claim the church wastes money. Honestly, these are just excuses not to give.

Huge Buildings

One of the most common ways that churches waste money—according to non-tithers—is by building and maintaining huge buildings. They claim it’s wasted space for services that only happen Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights.

But many church buildings have use far beyond what happens those two days of the week to serve their surrounding communities:

  • Childcare programs. Thousands upon thousands of churches have daycares, after-school programs, or early learning childcare programs in the building.
  • Polling places. Almost 13,000 churches willingly open their doors during local and national elections as polling places. Twenty percent of all polling places take place in local churches.[2]
  • Conferences. My church frequently hosts local leadership conferences, open forums, and other events during the week.
  • Venues. Many churches offer themselves as a venue for weddings and other special occasions.
  • Counseling and addiction groups. There are hundreds of counseling and mentoring sessions, small group meetings, and addiction recovery meetings in my church during the week, just to name a few.

This is just the short list! Most churches aren’t sitting vacant outside the weekly services but are serving their local communities. The larger the church campus, the more likely it’s being put to use in Christian service to benefit the community.

If this still isn’t enough for you, how big is your house? Median home sizes have grown by 150% since 1980. In 1980, the average new home was around 1,600 square feet. Compare that to today, where the average new home is almost 2,500 square feet![3] The irony is that as home sizes have increased, family size has decreased. I know many families who have a 3,000 square foot home, but only three people live there. Each person has 1,000 square feet of privacy all to himself! Yet in the next breath, they turn around and accuse churches of being too big. Don’t complain about the cost and size of church buildings until you’ve first looked in the mirror.

Pastors Make Too Much

Non-tithers also make the excuse that pastors make too much. My first response to this is, “Really?” Those who say this are usually thinking about celebrity pastors like Joel Osteen who pull in eight figure salaries. His church seats almost 17,000 people and has 45,000 in attendance per week. That’s not a church building; it’s a stadium. And don’t get me started on his weak theology. All that pomp and show is not the norm.

Research shows that the average U.S. congregation gathers in a building that seats around 200.[4] Celebrity pastors might make seven or eight figures, but that’s by far the exception. Most pastors choose to live sacrificially in order to fulfill their calling to ministry. Many of them can’t sustain themselves and their families on the tithes coming in alone. This means being bi-vocational if necessary or their spouse working full-time to support the family. The average salary for a pastor is around $50,000 per year.

Churches are Bureaucratic

Non-tithers also claim that churches spend frivolously. But what you might fail to recognize is that most churches have budgets, finance committees, and audited financial statements. Churches are accountable for every dollar they spend.

Let’s compare this to the average American. Most of my clients don’t have budgets, they reject financial accountability when it’s too tough to hear, and no client I know has to give an account other than on their tax return of what they made—even then, it’s not what they spend. They are accountable to no one.

Would you be so brash as to post your spending for the world to see? Would you want your social media accounts to share your monthly expenditures? Yet most churches have an open-door policy to their finances and regularly share their budget, operating costs, and expenses to stay above board. Pastors and church staff aren’t spending as frivolously as you may think. It’s the average American I’m worried about who spends 96% of their money on themselves. Who can cast the first stone? At the end of the day, the church is probably managing its finances better than you are.





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