I wrote earlier that the heads of some evangelical churches are urging their worshippers to attend church services even at the risk of spreading the virus among their parishioners, giving the spurious argument that their god would stop the disease from affecting the faithful. I said that I suspected that part of the reason may be that they are feeling the loss of revenue that is collected by passing the plate during the services.
It turns out that religious institutions are indeed facing loss of revenue but that it is not evenly spread across faiths. Christian churches seem to be far more dependent on collections during services than other faiths, and within Christianity evangelical churches are the most dependent.
Among all congregations, the average congregation obtained 78% of its total annual revenue from giving during its worship services in 2018, when we conducted a detailed survey about congregations’ finances.
Almost all Christian congregations, which make up the vast majority of the nation’s houses of worship, pass collection plates during their worship services. For most Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu congregations, however, giving occurs outside religious services.
Significantly, we found that 39% of all congregations didn’t have enough funds to cover three months’ worth of expenses.
Meanwhile, most non-Christian congregations tended to have at least that amount of money saved up.
Rural congregations generally were better able to withstand a short-term loss of funds than those in cities and suburbs, according to the data we collected.
So the physical distancing measures may be posing an existential threat to some congregations.