ROI is the acronym for Return On Investment. Your investment can be anything. Whether it’s your time, energy, or money. For the purposes of this post I want to talk about the millions of dollars in tithes black people pay to churches every week. By biblical decree Christians are required to give 10% of their income to support the church. This begs the question: What exactly are they getting for their money?
Numerous articles about the massive amounts of money raked in by Black Christian churches cite a Tyler Media Services study that estimates $17 billion a year is collected by them in tithes and offerings. It should be noted that although this number is quoted in by almost every article I’ve come across, it can’t be confirmed because Tyler Media Services has no online presence and no link to source material could be found. But since this is really the only number we have to work with, we will go with it.
In 2012 the Nielsen Company was commissioned by the National Newspaper Publishers Association to study the African-American consumer. The resulting report, “African-American Consumers: Still Vital, Still Growing” gave us the now famous $1.1 trillion number that is circulating as the size of Black America’s buying power. If the $17 billion number is correct, that means that churches within the black community is controlling only 1.5% of that money annually but we should put it into a little perspective.
The United Nations says it can end world hunger with $30 billion a year. Free college tuition could be provided to every student in America for $63 billion based on Department Of Education numbers. But African-Americans are only 14% of the population so logically the issues we face could be solved with a lot less money. Going through any black community in America and you will see a church on almost every corner. So why then are we not better off?
Imagine if the toxic “prosperity gospel” wasn’t so prevalent in Black America. Even with today’s abysmal interest rates on saving accounts, what would happen if you invested that 10% into yourself and your family? The US Census Bureau said that in 2008 the per capita income (this is the total estimated income divided by population) $18,406. 10% of that is $1,841. If you had put that money into just a regular savings account earning a measly .75% interest between the ages of 21 and 65, you would have almost $96,000 according to this compound interest calculator. Not too bad a showing for a community where over half don’t have $500 in their savings account to weather emergencies.
And once they get this money, where are black churches putting it? More than likely into mainstream financial institutions that have been shown historically to impact the community negatively through refusal of loans and funding of development that impacts in a negative way. Umar Johnson explains in the video below.
But times are changing. More and more people are becoming vocal in their questioning of the role the church plays in the black community and wondering if our resources can be put to better use elsewhere. Notably, Moguldom Studios produced a 2014 documentary called “Black Church, Inc.” as an exposé on mega churches, the prosperity gospel, and the lavish lifestyles of the pastors who advocate such things. The trailer is below.