Two surveys on church giving in 2011 came to apparently contradictory conclusions. One said donations rebounded for the first time since the start of the 2008 recession, and another reported a huge drop in total giving.
The fourth annual "State of the Plate" survey conducted by Christianity Today found that "a majority of congregations experienced giving increases because of a better economy, higher attendance, and more church teaching on giving."
The National Council of Churches' 2012 Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches, on the other hand, said "churches continue to feel the effects of ‘the Great Recession'?" as contributions dropped $1.2 billion in 2011.
The State of the Plate survey of 1,360 congregations found that 51 percent of churches reported increases in 2011, up from 43 percent in 2010 and 36 percent in 2009.
Increases were greatest among larger churches, with more than 70 percent of megachurches — those with 2,000 or more in weekend attendance — experiencing an increase last year. The most common reason attributed for increases was higher attendance.
The Yearbook said nearly $29 billion was contributed by nearly 45 million church members, down from $30.2 billion in 2010. Not all churches that belong to the council report their finances, according to Eileen Lindner, Yearbook's editor. Per capita giving was $763 in 2011, down $17 from the previous year, Ms. Lindner said.