“Three phrases sum up Christmas: Peace on earth, goodwill to men and batteries not included.” It might not be the most inspirational quote, but it makes the point that there is a big gulf between ideal and reality.
How well does the reality of our offerings to the Church match up to our ideals? Two surveys in recent years have tried to find out, aiming to generate greater understanding of how givers act and think about giving, and what motivates them.
The first was carried out between 2010 and 2011 by the stewardship network of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI) and included the Church of England, Church of Scotland, Church in Wales, Scottish Episcopal Church and The Salvation Army. It analysed 1,670 responses.
The second survey, in 2012, was also an initiative of the CTBI stewardship network, and it purely covered the United Reformed Church. It involved 59 churches (including seven local ecumenical partnerships) in 12 Synods, and produced 1,218 individual responses (about half of the anonymous self-completion questionnaires sent out) making it a far more comprehensive survey than the earlier one. The number of responses equates to 2% of total URC membership and 4% of churches – a large sample by social survey standards – and the results provide qualitative data on giving.
It contrasts with previous surveys (the last in the URC was in 2005) that tended to draw together data from church accounts to give comparative insights into average per capita giving, income, maintenance costs etc. Whilst this method provides useful statistical information, it does not facilitate any understanding into the behaviours or attitudes of givers. The results of the surveys are interesting and, at times, sobering…
This is an extract from the December 2013/January 2014 edition of Reform.