Home > Current Events, Numbers > Mars Hill Church and the 80/20 Rule

Mars Hill Church and the 80/20 Rule

Mars Hill Church released its Fiscal Year 2010 Annual Report back on February 16 [link]; I’ve cached a copy [PDF] and recommend reading it. Also, I need to get back to it to refine some wild guesses I made about Mars Hill Albuquerque salaries.

This is an annual report, and as such is a mix of numbers and stories. Most annual reports are a mix of real information and public relations, meant to convey a sense of both transparency and enthusiasm. Sometimes it’s hard to tell one from the other. There is no Securities and Exchange Commission monitoring these reports and making minimal guarantees under threat of force the way there would be for a for-profit company. Churches especially aren’t obligated by the government to be accountable for every dollar they touch, etc.

All that being said the Mars Hill Annual Report makes for an interesting read; it makes clear what Mars Hill considers its distinctives (pages 14-15) and what distinguishes them from e.g. Calvary Chapel or Sovereign Grace Ministries or any other paradenominational organization.

One of the nuggets is on page 54-55 under the heading “Mars Hill Church Attendees by Annual Giving Range,” where there’s a pie chart with slices representing people who attend Mars Hill campus churches and and their giving levels: 21% give $0, 43% give $1-500, 15% give $501-1500, 11% give $1501-4000, and 10% give >$4000.  This general pattern is familiar among churches: a small number of people give most of the money, most people give little or nothing, and there’s a third group in the middle that’s hard to describe.

Here’s how the annual report describes giving overall:

The top 21 percent of givers made up 86 percent of all of the 2010 donations. Among those who contributed nothing, some were non-Christians or visitors. As long as Mars Hill continues to grow at the present rate, these ratios will likely remain static as new attendees join while present attendees mature spiritually. The goal is not that 100 percent of attendees would give over $4,000, but that all Christians would learn to give regularly, generously, and sacrificially, each according to their means. Because giving is an act of worship and love for Jesus, we don’t expect non-Christians to give. Therefore, since we want non-Christians to continue coming to Mars Hill Church, there should always be some $0 givers. Christians who give $0 may need to repent, but non-Christians who give $0 should feel welcome as guests.

Yeah there’s a fair amount of Christianese here, but basically they’re saying that their donors more or less follow the 80/20 rule [link], which is fairly typical for churches generally. They don’t touch the question of tithing (the word “tithe” doesn’t appear in the report), so there’s no discussion of giving as a percentage of income. I am guessing this is because they were able to calculate this number (how they estimated donor numbers for cash donations I can’t imagine), whereas they would need a lot of personal data to calculate tithing rates accurately.

I don’t know why the Pareto number describes above tends to settle where it does, nor do I know how one would go about shifting it. Ideally a church would consist of believers who are giving (somewhere) at a sacrificial level; I’m not sure that money should all always go to their local church. It’s not reasonable to expect the Pareto number to be 50 (50% of the people giving 50% of the money) since almost any church has rich people and poor people. Having the donations concentrated in the hands of a relative few (where a power clique sponsors most of the church’s activities) tends to concentrate power in a handful of pews; I’m not sure what happens on the other end of the spectrum. I’ve never seen it.

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  1. February 26, 2011 at 4:56 am

    God is love.
    Love is freely give.
    When people love, they will freely give.
    If people do not tith, then that is their level of love.
    Parents will sacrifice everything for their children
    because of love.
    When people tithe for their church, then that is the level of their love.
    God want’s love.
    The ACT of loving has greater value than money.
    In the eyes of God.
    People want money.

    • February 28, 2011 at 12:46 pm

      If people do not tithe, then that is their level of love.
      Parents will sacrifice everything for their children because of love.
      When people tithe for their church, then that is the level of their love.

      You totally lost me here.

      I can tithe without loving, and I can love without tithing. As far as I can tell the two are unrelated.

  2. February 28, 2011 at 4:21 pm

    Yes, one can tithe without loving, but love without tithing?

    Love itself by it’s very nature is sacrificial, Absolute love is absolute sacrifice.

    If one truly ‘loves’, how can one NOT tithe? For the act of tithing is the act of love.

    The point I was trying to make was; When one tithes for their church, their level of love is on a church level. When one tithes for their country, their level of love is country size level, but when one tithes for the World…

    Tithing does not just mean financial. Love itself IS the tithe.

    How much IS our love? Church level, world level?

    A parent sacrifices (tithes) everything for their child because of love.

    Love is freely given, tithes should be freely given and without thought as to how much. As love grows so also will the tithe.

  3. Vince
    March 1, 2011 at 7:39 am

    I tend to agree with you Mike and would further submit that “tithing” more precisely demonstrates one’s “worship” than it does their “love.” Statistically, most Christians do not tithe. In my opinion, this does not necessarily suggest a lack of love for God, but rather, a misdirected worship of something or someone else.

  4. March 1, 2011 at 2:09 pm

    What is worship, but one’s level of love.

    When one offers worship to God or Jesus, is this reverence devoid of love, or is there a conection?

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