Proclaiming the Good News of God in Christ

Book Review: Rich Church, Poor Church

Review of Rich Church, Poor Church — Keys to Effective Financial Ministry, by J. Clif Christopher. (Nashville; Abington, 2012) 108 pgs.

In the introduction to his short book on church financial health, “Rich Church, Poor Church,” author Christopher shares some startling statistics on charitable giving:

  • Religion used to receive 60 percent of all charitable gifts in America. Today it receives 32 percent.
  • United Methodists and Presbyterians give an average of 1 percent of their income to the church. Episcopalians and Lutherans give 1.1 percent. Baptists give 2 percent. Orthodox and Catholics give less than 1 percent.
  • In the past decade the number of financially healthy churches has dropped from 31 percent to 14 percent of all churches, a drop of over 50 percent!

Christopher, a former United Methodist pastor and current CEO of Horizons Stewardship Consulting, then goes on to describe the ideas, characteristics, and behaviors that his research has shown to differentiate between financially healthy and financially unhealthy churches.

In doing so, Christopher makes a compelling case that there are specific, indentifiable characteristics that affect a church’s financial health, and offers hope that any church, paying attention to the right things, can move from one category to the other. In other words, struggling churches are not bound to continue to live in financial uncertainty, but can create a new future by gathering their leadership and applying their resources in ways that follow the successful patterns of others who have made that transition.

Each of the eleven chapters lists and contrasts specific points that churches can attend to. Not very point applies to every church, and not every church will agree with every point the author makes. However, I found myself agreeing with most of what Christopher writes, and I recommend this book enthusiastically to every parish, regardless of their financial position. It is not a stewardship program or campaign, but is rather an invitation for parish leaders to study together some church health and growth information based on the author’s substantial experience working with churches, both financially troubled and sound.

Fr. Mark Selvey

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