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Sociology of religion.

Many religious traditions teach individuals to give financially to the church. However, actual giving within the church varies across denominations and within individual churches. Studies have shown that Conservative and Evangelical Protestants give the highest amounts, whereas Mainline Protestants and Catholics have been shown to give at much lower levels. However, many individuals do not give at all. There are a number of possible explanations for these variations including available financial resources, parental influence, perceptions regarding others' need, guilt, and other obstacles. The authors define four possible groups of givers by their reasons to give. These are socialized giving, need giving, normative giving, and guilt giving. They also identify three obstacles to giving: wealth insecurity, giving illiteracy, and comfortable guilt. They sought to investigate motivations and obstades among individuals from different church contexts.

Phone surveys were conducted with all congregations located in three midsized cities. U.S. Census data was connected to congregational survey data through postal codes. Then they conducted in-person interviews with youth ministers from these congregations. Four congregations from these areas were selected, and then different church activities were observed. Content analysis was used to examine website information or printed materials from the churches. Finally, they interviewed individuals who attended the churches, as well as leaders within each congregation. Two of the four churches were used for the purposes of this study: a conservative Evangelical Protestant (EP) church and a Mainline Protestant (MP) church.

They found that many individuals from both churches, regardless of how much they gave, had learned to give from their parents. Normative giving (i.e., giving because the church, Bible, or God teaches them that it is right to give) was more common in the high givers in the EP church than high givers in the MP church. Some of the high givers in the MP church mentioned need giving (i.e., giving because of the needs of others), whereas need giving was not mentioned in the EP congregates. In terms of obstacles, most people who were considered low givers reported that they were giving what they could. Some individuals thought that they were giving a high percentage of their income when they in fact were not. There were more individuals from the EP church who felt guilt than the MP church.

Understanding the variables the help to predict giving motivations and obstacles is important during the current economic climate of the U.S. Normative givers in the EP church felt that that they would be letting God down if they did not give. MP members instead reported more of a duty-based motivation and gave out of tradition. Another unexpected finding was that individuals who felt badly that they did not have the financial resources to give of their money wanted to give of their time. These findings help to provide information to pastors and support the idea that giving should not be a "one size fits all" approach. Developing appropriate ways to teach on giving in churches is needed.

Vaidyanathan, B., & Snell, P.

Motivations for and obstacles to religious financial giving

Volume 72, 189-214. (2011).

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Title Annotation:Journal File
Author:B., Vaidyanathan; P., Snell
Publication:Journal of Psychology and Theology
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 22, 2014
Words:513
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