This has nothing to do with this article, but our author is now a national media star, as can be demonstrated from this article in the Washington Post. Interestingly, one of the “Tri-state” areas there is Sioux City (Iowa/Nebraska/South Dakota), where I live, and the IA/MN/SD point is not too far north of here.
This chart shows how CP giving is distributed across all of the Southern Baptist Churches in Oklahoma. I am using Oklahoma for this study since I have the Annual Church Profile information for the state of Oklahoma available in a machine readable form. I can’t prove this, but the chart would probably be similar for most of the state conventions associated with the SBC – at least those in the “South” –spanning clockwise from Virginia to Oklahoma.
Conventional wisdom is this: With the advent of mega-churches in recent decades we now experience a situation where the lion’s share of CP giving comes from a relatively small number of churches. The chart confirms this. But what I was completely blown away to discover, by actually grinding the numbers, is that the concentration of CP giving has been the same for generations. Specifically: 80% of CP giving comes from 20% of the churches. This has remained constant since at least 1960.
To be sure there have been dramatic demographic changes in most of our states since 1960. I’ll use Oklahoma as an example to highlight some of these changes.
We have 77 counties in Oklahoma. The population trends in the Oklahoma counties have been dramatic. Cleveland County – Moore and Norman – has grown by a factor of 5 since 1952. Other suburban counties on the fringes of Tulsa and Oklahoma City have tripled their population since 1952 while the population of Tulsa and Oklahoma Counties has doubled.
At the other end of the scale, 34 of the 77 counties in Oklahoma have lost population. Five of these 34 counties have lost half or more of their population since the 1950s. A number of county seat towns have become virtual ghost towns. They don’t even have a McDonalds and the Sonic has been shut down.
What does all of this mean in terms how CP giving is distributed across the churches? The answer is there is not much change. This is a summary of where the churches were located in 1960, and still are located in 2012, which are giving the bulk of CP funds:
[A] Some First Baptist Churches in County Seat towns.
[B] Within 30 miles from the core of Oklahoma City or Tulsa
[C] Within 10 miles of a dozen key cities such as Enid, Ardmore, Lawton, Elk City, Ada, Claremore, Ponca City, Bartlesville, Durant, and Purcell.
I don’t mean to imply that the churches that were leading in CP giving in 1960 are necessarily the exact same churches that are leading in CP giving today.
All I’m saying is that the distribution of CP giving across all of the churches has stayed the same across generations. There has been migration of large churches from neighborhoods close in the downtowns of Oklahoma City and Tulsa to the suburbs but this has not really changed the big picture.
The bottom line is this: Just like in 1960, CP giving is concentrated in a relatively few large churches. It seems to be a “law of physics” that within any large area –such as a state – the invisible hand of market forces creates a situation where the majority of CP gifts come from a relatively few churches – notwithstanding huge demographic shifts across decades.
There are a number of prominent churches –which are also megachurches based on size [membership / attendance] — whose CP gifts are way low considering their size. I’ll address this in the final post of this series.