Christian Ministry Leaders Remain Optimistic About Revenue, Still Call it Their Biggest Challenge
This marks one year since MinistryWatch began our quarterly survey of the leaders of the largest Christian ministries in the country. The results are summarized below.
Each quarter, MinistryWatch conducts a survey of the leaders of the largest 1,000 Christian ministries in the country. October’s quarterly survey marks one year since we began this endeavor to gain and report insights about the leadership of these Christian ministries.
We have written many articles about trends and insights arising from the results, but this is our first attempt at a more comprehensive article about the survey.
We received responses to the October survey from 93 ministry executives, 92% of whom are in the top role at the organization—CEO, president, or executive director. To be completely transparent, this is our largest response so far—about 14% higher than the first survey we conducted last October. We are grateful to all who participated.
How many years have you been in this position?
As ministries grow and change, one thing seems to remain steady—the leadership. Of the leaders who responded to the survey, 46% have been in their position for 10 years or longer. When expanded to a broader range to include those who’ve led for at least seven years, it rises to nearly 66%. Only 3% of ministry leaders have been at the head of their organizations for one year or less.
What age are Christian ministry leaders?
Given the longevity of leaders in their positions at the helm of Christian ministries, it may come as no surprise to learn that they are getting older. Over 46% of the respondents said they were between age 61 and age 70. About 5% are over 70, and one respondent is still leading a ministry at over 80 years of age. The largest proportion of leaders—81.5%—fall between ages 51 and 70.
Are you male or female?
As we’ve reported in the past, more women are at the helm of Christian ministries than those leading secular businesses. According to the MinistryWatch survey responses, about 15% of Christian ministries are led by women.In contrast, according to the the Pew Research Center, “the share of women CEOs of Fortune 500companies reached an all-time high of 10.6% in 2023, with 53 women heading major firms.”
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The majority of respondents say their ministry’s revenue has increased over the last 12 months. Within that group, 21% say their ministry revenue has increased by more than 10 percent in the last year. About 18% said ministry revenue remained flat.
About the next 12 months, ministry leaders are optimistic. Over 62% of respondents believe ministry revenue will increase. Of those 44% believe it will go up somewhere between one and ten percent, while 18% of leaders are expecting revenue increases of over 10%.Notably, however, are almost 27% of respondents who believe the ministry they lead will see no significant change in revenue.
Most Significant Challenge for Ministry Leaders
The MinistryWatch survey includes several choices of the most significant challenge faced by ministry leaders including fundraising, staffing, operational and logistical challenges, human resource policies, religious liberty challenges, personal challenges like burnout, and succession planning.
Repeatedly the top two challenges faced by ministry leaders are fundraising along with finding and keeping qualified staff. In October’s survey, fundraising came in as the biggest challenge with nearly 41% of respondents choosing that answer. Staffing challenges came in second at nearly 28%.
In the January survey, staffing challenges took the top spot with about 37% of respondents versus 33% choosing fundraising.
Respondents are given the opportunity to provide their own response to the question and one wrote, “Actually all of the above have been major [challenges] in the past 12 months.”
Time Spent Fundraising
Given that fundraising is often the most significant challenge faced by ministry leaders, it comes as no surprise that 82% of ministry leaders consider fundraising either an important or primary part of their function in the organization. About 63% of respondents say that fundraising is important but they don’t spent the majority of their time on it, while 19% say it is their primary job and takes up most of their time.
Fraud or Cyber-attacks
Most ministries responding to the survey did not experience a form of financial fraud or cyber-attack in the last twelve months. Nearly 84% answered that they had not had to deal with such an incident.
However, for those 16% that did experience a fraudulent or cyber-attack, 53% of the time it was perpetrated by someone outside of the organization. Unfortunately, 20% of the attacks came from within.
Several respondents chose to provide their own answer to the question about attacks, acknowledging they’d experienced cyber-attacks but they were unsuccessful.