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1828 Wesley’s Surpluses

From the books alone John Wesley gave away between £30,000 and £40,000. He told Samuel Bradburn, one of his preachers, in 1787, that he never gave away anything less than £1,000 a year, and yet, when he died, his personal estate amounted to only a few pounds.

When earning £30 a year, he lived on £28 and gave the remaining £2 to the Lord. Next year salary was doubled. He found that he lived comfortably on £28 a year, so, instead of raising his standard of living, he continued to live on £28 a year and gave the whole of his increase to God. So later God entrusted him with large and larger amounts.


Barna on Money:

You have opened the research archive that relates to Americans’ income and perceptions of money. The statistics and analysis in this archive come from national surveys conducted by Barna Research.

For more information about perceptions of money and Americans’ socio economic status, be sure to check out the related resources and news releases featured on this page. In addition, visit the stewardship data archive for statistics relating to financial donations made to churches or the community service archive for statistics relating to donations made to non-profit organizations. Watch for new information to be added to this archive in the months to come.

A profile of Americans’ income (2006)  

  • 30% of American adults earn $30K or less annually, before taxes. (2006)
  • 38% of American adults earn between $30K and $60K annually, before taxes. (2006)
  • 20% of American adults earn $60K to $100K annually, before taxes. (2006)
  • 12% of Americans earn over $100K annually, before taxes (2006)


Barna on Stewardship

Reported giving  

  • Over 80% of all households donated some money to at least one non-profit organization or a church in 2003, 2002 and 2001, compared with 84% in 2000 and 87% in 1999.
  • The proportion of households that tithe their income to their church – that is, give at least ten percent of their income to that ministry – has dropped by 62% in the past year, from 8% in 2001 to just 3% of adults during 2002 (2003)
  • 9% of born agains tithed 10% of their income to a house of worship in 2004.
  • Nearly 9% of the evangelicals tithed in 2002 – roughly three times the national average. (2003)

Reported giving to the local church  

  • 9% of born again Christians tithed their income to churches in 2004.
  • The average cumulative donations to churches by evangelicals totaled $2097. For evangelicals, cumulative donations totaled $2097. (2000) Among the born again population, which represents 38% of all adults, the average giving to churches in 2003 was $1411 –much higher than a year earlier ($1220), but below previous year’s totals. (2004)
  • Close to two out of every three households (63%) donated some money to a church, synagogue or other place of religious worship during 2003. That percentage has remained constant since 2001, but is somewhat lower than the number of church donors identified in 2000 and in 1999 (66%).
  • When contributions are examined as a percentage of household income, giving to religious centers represents about 2.2% of gross income. (2003)
  • In total, one out of every twenty households (5%) tithed their pre-tax income to non-profit organizations. (2003)

Groups that are Most and Least Likely to Give  

  • The segments that were most likely to give at least ten percent to their house of worship included evangelicals (14% did so); adults with an active faith (12% of those who had attended church, prayed and read the Bible during the previous week); African-Americans, born agains, charismatic or Pentecostal Christians, and people from households with a gross income of $60,000 or more (7% among each of those segments).
  • The segments that were least likely to tithe included Catholics (1%) as well as non-born again individuals, adults under 35, and those from households with a gross income of $40,000 to $59,999 (2% of the people in each of those segments tithed). (2003)


Barna on Priorities


March 14, 2006 (Ventura, CA) – Most American adults consider themselves to be not merely “religious,” but “deeply spiritual.” That’s the claim of 62% of all adults interviewed in the annual religious tracking survey conducted by The Barna Group, of Ventura, California. However, when the religious and spiritual commitments of Americans were studied more closely, those outcomes question the meaning of being “deeply spiritual.”

In particular, the research discovered that when adults were asked to identify their single, most important priority in their life these days, commitment to their faith placed second – but was listed by just one out of every six people.

Top Priorities Identified

By far the top priority listed by adults – named by half of the population (51%) – was their family. Some segments were especially likely to list family as their highest commitment: people with children under the age of 18 living in their home (74%), adults in their twenties and thirties (67%), those who are married (61%), Catholics (60%), and Hispanics (60%). Several people groups were much less likely to place family at the top of their list. Those groups included people 60 or older (36%), singles (37%), African-Americans (39%), and Asians (39%).

Faith was the runner-up category, listed by 16% of all adults. This included a wide-ranging set of commitments, such as connecting with God, living consistently with one’s faith principles, having peace with God, being a committed church member, honoring God, and growing in faith.

Among the different people groups measured there were substantial disparities regarding the listing of faith as the top emphasis. For instance:

People over age 40 were twice as likely as those under 40 to make faith their highest priority (20% versus 9%).

Evangelicals were twice as likely as non-evangelical born again adults (47% vs. 21%), and almost five times more likely than notional Christians (47% vs. 10%) to place faith at the top of the list.

Protestants were more than three times as likely as Catholics to prioritize faith (24% versus 7%). Among Protestants, those associated with a church that is not part of the mainline denominations were more likely to select faith than were those aligned with a mainline church (27% vs. 18%).

African-Americans were nearly twice as likely as whites (27% vs. 15%) and almost three times as likely as Hispanics (10%) or Asians (11%) to select faith as their priority.

Those who define themselves as being “mostly conservative on social and political issues” were nine times more likely than those who describe themselves as “mostly liberal” on such matters to identify faith as their keenest priority (26% versus 3%). Other priorities, besides faith and family, that made the list included health (7%), lifestyle (5%), vocational matters (3%), money (3%), achieving success (3%), friendships (1%), leisure pursuits (1%), and having influence (1%). (The question was posed as an open-ended inquiry, allowing respondents to provide their highest priority without choosing from a list of options.)

Relationship of Faith to Other Perspectives

The survey pointed out that while most Americans think of themselves as being highly spiritual, that view is not supported by other self-perceptions or behaviors evident in their life. For instance, among the 59% of adults who described themselves as a “full-time servant of God” – of which only a few were clergy or in full-time ministry positions – a mere one-quarter placed faith as their highest life priority.

Similarly, among the people who deemed themselves to be “deeply spiritual” only one out of every four named their faith as their highest priority. Even among the seven out of ten Americans who strongly affirmed that their religious faith is “very important” in their life, barely one out of every five (22%) awarded faith the highest priority in their life. And among the two-thirds who claim that the “single, most important purpose of your life is to love God with all your heart, mind, strength and soul,” less than one-quarter (23%) put faith at the top of the priority list – a direct contradiction in their thinking.

Something’s Amiss

George Barna, who directed the tracking study of religious beliefs and practices, noted that the relationship between people’s perception of their religious commitment and their reticence to make faith their top priority points to a significant disconnect.

“Spirituality is in vogue in our society today,” he commented. “It is popular to claim to be part of a ‘faith community’ or to have a spiritual commitment. But what do Americans mean when they claim to be ‘spiritual?’ The recent Grammy awards were perhaps indicative of this breakdown between self-perception and reality. The members of the group that won the award for best song thanked God for the victory then immediately followed with profanities that had to be bleeped from the broadcast. It seems as if God is in, but living for God is not. Many Americans are living a dual life – one filled with good feelings about God and faith, corroborated by some simple religious practices, and another in which they believe they are in control of their own destiny and operate apart from Him.”

Citing further evidence of this dualistic perspective, the author of more than three dozen books on faith and culture stated, “The survey also noted that among those who say their faith has ‘greatly transformed’ their life, just one out of four positioned their faith practices and pursuits as their highest life priority. It certainly seems that millions of Americans are fooling themselves into thinking that they have found the appropriate balance between God and lifestyle.”

(Ventura, CA) – Most American adults consider themselves to be not merely “religious,” but “deeply spiritual.” That’s the claim of 62% of all adults interviewed in the annual religious tracking survey conducted by The Barna Group, of Ventura, California. However, when the religious and spiritual commitments of Americans were studied more closely, those outcomes question the meaning of being “deeply spiritual.”

In particular, the research discovered that when adults were asked to identify their single, most important priority in their life these days, commitment to their faith placed second – but was listed by just one out of every six people.

Top Priorities Identified

By far the top priority listed by adults – named by half of the population (51%) – was their family. Some segments were especially likely to list family as their highest commitment: people with children under the age of 18 living in their home (74%), adults in their twenties and thirties (67%), those who are married (61%), Catholics (60%), and Hispanics (60%). Several people groups were much less likely to place family at the top of their list. Those groups included people 60 or older (36%), singles (37%), African-Americans (39%), and Asians (39%).

Faith was the runner-up category, listed by 16% of all adults. This included a wide-ranging set of commitments, such as connecting with God, living consistently with one’s faith principles, having peace with God, being a committed church member, honoring God, and growing in faith.

Among the different people groups measured there were substantial disparities regarding the listing of faith as the top emphasis. For instance:

People over age 40 were twice as likely as those under 40 to make faith their highest priority (20% versus 9%).

Evangelicals were twice as likely as non-evangelical born again adults (47% vs. 21%), and almost five times more likely than notional Christians (47% vs. 10%) to place faith at the top of the list.

Protestants were more than three times as likely as Catholics to prioritize faith (24% versus 7%). Among Protestants, those associated with a church that is not part of the mainline denominations were more likely to select faith than were those aligned with a mainline church (27% vs. 18%).

African-Americans were nearly twice as likely as whites (27% vs. 15%) and almost three times as likely as Hispanics (10%) or Asians (11%) to select faith as their priority.

Those who define themselves as being “mostly conservative on social and political issues” were nine times more likely than those who describe themselves as “mostly liberal” on such matters to identify faith as their keenest priority (26% versus 3%). Other priorities, besides faith and family, that made the list included health (7%), lifestyle (5%), vocational matters (3%), money (3%), achieving success (3%), friendships (1%), leisure pursuits (1%), and having influence (1%). (The question was posed as an open-ended inquiry, allowing respondents to provide their highest priority without choosing from a list of options.)

Relationship of Faith to Other Perspectives

The survey pointed out that while most Americans think of themselves as being highly spiritual, that view is not supported by other self-perceptions or behaviors evident in their life. For instance, among the 59% of adults who described themselves as a “full-time servant of God” – of which only a few were clergy or in full-time ministry positions – a mere one-quarter placed faith as their highest life priority.

Similarly, among the people who deemed themselves to be “deeply spiritual” only one out of every four named their faith as their highest priority. Even among the seven out of ten Americans who strongly affirmed that their religious faith is “very important” in their life, barely one out of every five (22%) awarded faith the highest priority in their life. And among the two-thirds who claim that the “single, most important purpose of your life is to love God with all your heart, mind, strength and soul,” less than one-quarter (23%) put faith at the top of the priority list – a direct contradiction in their thinking.

Something’s Amiss

George Barna, who directed the tracking study of religious beliefs and practices, noted that the relationship between people’s perception of their religious commitment and their reticence to make faith their top priority points to a significant disconnect.

“Spirituality is in vogue in our society today,” he commented. “It is popular to claim to be part of a ‘faith community’ or to have a spiritual commitment. But what do Americans mean when they claim to be ‘spiritual?’ The recent Grammy awards were perhaps indicative of this breakdown between self-perception and reality. The members of the group that won the award for best song thanked God for the victory then immediately followed with profanities that had to be bleeped from the broadcast. It seems as if God is in, but living for God is not. Many Americans are living a dual life – one filled with good feelings about God and faith, corroborated by some simple religious practices, and another in which they believe they are in control of their own destiny and operate apart from Him.”

Citing further evidence of this dualistic perspective, the author of more than three dozen books on faith and culture stated, “The survey also noted that among those who say their faith has ‘greatly transformed’ their life, just one out of four positioned their faith practices and pursuits as their highest life priority. It certainly seems that millions of Americans are fooling themselves into thinking that they have found the appropriate balance between God and lifestyle.”

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