Compared to 2016, churches are more likely to have more than seven weeks of cash reserves. Additionally, few have had someone embezzle funds from the congregation.
After enduring difficult economic seasons recently, churches are better prepared for financial rainy days than they were prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A Lifeway Research study on the financial health of U.S. Protestant churches found fewer congregations have less than two months of cash reserves compared to a previous study in 2016. Additionally, most churches have undergone a financial audit in the past two years, and fewer than 1 in 10 have had someone embezzle funds from the congregation.
“When hardships impact an organization, financial leaders carefully watch how much cash is on hand and how quickly they are spending it,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research. “Very rarely does cash stop coming in completely, though some churches experienced that for a few weeks in 2020. But hardships such as a financial recession can impact church receipts and force the use of cash reserves to get by. While improved, there are still too many churches with too little money in the bank given the uncertainties of 2023.”
Prior to 2022, 2016 was the last year a majority of pastors said the economy was having a negative impact on their congregation, according to an annual Lifeway Research study. This time, however, churches seem more equipped to handle the storm.
Around 3 in 10 U.S. Protestant pastors (31%) are not sure how many weeks of cash reserves their church has. Among those who know, the percentage of churches with less than 16 weeks of reserves has fallen from 50% in 2016 to 44%. Specifically, 20% of pastors say their cash reserves are seven weeks or less, down from 26% in 2016.
Slightly more churches today have reserves ranging from 16 to 51 weeks. In 2016, 27% said that was the case. Today, 32% have that amount on hand. The percentage of pastors today who say their congregation has more than a year’s worth is similar to 2016 (23% in 2016 vs. 24% now).