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Pareto and the Pulpit

I am going to start the presentation of my study regarding the financial stewardship of the small “c” church by considering the resource inflows into the church. That’s right! We are going to start out on the touchy topic of tithing.

If a minister wants to empty a church and/or collect unemployment, just start preaching on tithing. Parishioners hate it when ministers preach on this subject, but they sure like to offer their opinion on how the church spends its money. At this point and in the name of full disclosure, I should note that I may be projecting my own experiences and behavior into the study. I have yet to sit through a message on tithing and leave church feeling “fed”. And I do have some pretty strong beliefs, opinions and convictions on how the church spends the money entrusted to it by its parishioners who serve as money managers for God.

All of that being said, I am still shocked by how little the typical “pew-sitter” gives to his or her local church: 2%.

I have reviewed a number of empirical studies conducted via a variety of research methods. The robustness of the 2% conclusion is remarkable given the weak research design and/or methodology employed in most of these studies. At the end of the day, no matter how I look at it, the number is 2%.

But the 2% is not reflective of the tithing behavior in most congregations. Rather, Pareto’s Principle is. Pareto is attributed with developing the “80-20” rule which holds, in brief, that 80% of the results are attributed to 20% of the causes. In other words for a business guy like me, 80% of sales come from 20% of the customers, and 80% of managerial headaches come from 20% of the employees.

In church, 80% of the offering comes from 20% of the congregants; in fact, about 8 out of 10 parishioners do not tithe at all (So, the 80% is biased downward in the case of church tithing behavior. It really should be the “100-20” rule).

So, what is a pastor to do? Will parishioners miss out on life ever after because they did not tithe? If so, why go to church at all? You’re going to be on the wide road heading to destruction anyway. Maybe that is why the road to glory is so narrow? Only 20 percent are paying for the pavement.

I wonder what God thinks about all of this?

Stay tuned. Over the next few weeks of blogs we are going to get messy with the topic of tithing.

I promise. The work will ruffle some feathers.

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