Passing the Plate and over one million other books are available for Amazon Kindle. Learn more
Buy New
  • List Price: $24.95
  • Save: $7.85 (31%)
FREE Shipping on orders over $35.
Only 2 left in stock (more on the way).
Ships from and sold by
Gift-wrap available.
Add to Cart
Trade in your item
Get a $2.00
Gift Card.
Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See this image

Passing the Plate: Why American Christians Don't Give Away More Money Hardcover – September 29, 2008

See all 2 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
Amazon Price New from Used from
"Please retry"
"Please retry"
$8.50 $6.62

Frequently Bought Together

Passing the Plate: Why American Christians Don't Give Away More Money + Not Your Parents' Offering Plate: A New Vision for Financial Stewardship + Whose Offering Plate Is It?: New Strategies for Financial Stewardship
Price for all three: $43.33

Buy the selected items together


Looking for the Audiobook Edition?
Tell us that you'd like this title to be produced as an audiobook, and we'll alert our colleagues at If you are the author or rights holder, let Audible help you produce the audiobook: Learn more at

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (September 29, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195337115
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195337112
  • Product Dimensions: 1.1 x 6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #314,702 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Why is it that Christians in the world's most affluent nation give so little of their income to charity? This sociological study, based on extensive survey data and building on prior studies of Christian philanthropy, shows that American Christian groups typically give away only 1.5% to 2% of their income. Considering that this figure is based on self-reporting, the reality is probably even less. Catholics are the worst, with many Protestant groups in the middle and Mormons (whom this study regards as "non-Christian religious believers") at the top. The first two chapters lay out the problem of Americans' ungenerous behavior, while the third ventures explanations: it's not that Americans don't have the money, but that they spend it on luxuries and fail to perceive needs outside their own circles; also, churches are vague about expectations for giving. A fourth chapter delves into parishioners' and pastors' complex feelings about giving, while a stirring conclusion lays down the gauntlet for change. Although the primary audience will be academic, any pastor who has ever had to preach a stewardship sermon should also read this book. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"Superb. Urgent. Well researched but highly readable. This book is a powerful summons to use our abundance to bless others. A must-read." --Ronald J. Sider, President, Evangelicals for Social Action

"Americans are, supposedly, a generous people, and religiously active Americans are supposed to be among the most generous of the generous. These stereotypes are not entirely false, but sociologists Christian Smith and Michael Emerson want to register a dissent. Their patient and diligent research explores the troubling question why American Christians do not give MORE. Passing the Plate explores this unusually important subject with unusual depth, unusual clarity, and unusual insight." --Mark A. Noll, author of America's God: From Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln

"Financial giving to churches and charitable organizations has been neglected by scholarly researchers and remains poorly understood. With characteristic clarity and empirical precision, Christian Smith and Michael O. Emerson have tackled one of the thorniest aspects of American Christians' behavior. I hope church leaders will read this fine book and find ways to incorporate its insights into their thinking about church finances. Scholars of religion and nonprofit organizations will benefit from it as well." --Robert Wuthnow, author of After the Baby Boomers: How Twenty- and Thirty-Somethings Are Shaping the Future of American Religion

"They are clear in their presentation of their research and in the analysis of their conclusions. Seminary professors and leaders in church organizations might be well advised to read the excellent introduction first, and then pursue those chapters that present the authors' research and analysis." --Choice

"I am convinced that Passing the Plate is urgently important for the American church. Every pastor should read it and beg God for the courage to insist that his or her congregation deal directly and systemically with this topic in an ongoing way. Every seminary professor and church leader should read it and take its lessons to heart. And every informed Christian layperson should pray over this book, asking God for a biblical understanding of stewardship and the strength to act accordingly." --Books & Culture&R

"An outstanding work that should be read by anyone interested in Christian charitable giving. Its findings may surprise and perhaps even shock scholars and church leaders." --Sociology of Religion

"This book is a stunner... Smith, Emerson, and their colleagues have done outstanding work describing and analyzing important features of American Christianity in our time." --Church History

More About the Author

Christian Smith is the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Sociology and Director of the Center for the Study of Religion and Society, and the Center for Social Research at the University of Notre Dame. He is the author of many books, including What is a Person?: Rethinking Humanity, Social Life, and the Moral Good from the Person Up (Chicago 201); Passing the Plate: Why American Christians Do Not Give Away More Money (OUP 2008); Soul Searching: the Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers (OUP 2005), Winner of the 2005 "Distinguished Book Award" from Christianity Today; and Moral, Believing Animals: Human Personhood and Culture (OUP 2003).

Customer Reviews

I found the book well researched, full of useful data and information, and an easy read.
Charles E. Gardner
So, to pastors, denominational leaders, and Christian charitable organizations, I say, "Read this book!"
George P. Wood
Then they come up with a list of things they think people shouldn't be spending money on.
Kimba W. Lion

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By C. Stephans VINE VOICE on September 30, 2008
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
As a seminary student with plans enter the priesthood, I found Passing the Plate valuable and helpful. The authors approach the inquiry of "Why American Christians don't give away more money" with genuine concern and interest in those who profess a faith but don't support it financially as their faith suggests they should. The tone throughout the book is measured not to criticize or accuse Christians of fault but moreso to help Christians live up to their faith and to fund the causes in which they believe. I appreciated their motives, processes, honesty and suggestions.

The authors present themselves as sociologists rather than theologians or Christian leaders. Their endeavor is to research and study Christian giving that they might determine the thoughts, attitudes, emotions and resources behind Christian giving or lack of it.

They study and analyze a plethora of data on giving and givers. They perform their own surveys and interviews of Christian leaders and parishoners to get to the core of the issue. The data results of their studies are eye opening to say the least, and most of their statistics are clear and tell a revealing story of who gives, how much they give and why they give or don't give.

The authors offer and test hypotheses of why American Christians don't give more money--at least closer to the 10% tithe prescribed by most Christian organizations. They discuss their findings in relation to these hypotheses.

After discussing their findings, they present suggestions for Christian leaders to implement in their congregations to increase giving in conformity with their faith. These are coherent, practical applications that are not manipulative or conniving but what I think are really helpful suggestions that readers can consider.
Read more ›
1 Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
For most pastors, the most frustrating part of the job is trying to raise money. The overwhelming majority of priests and ministers will tell you that they are uncomfortable talking about finances with their congregations and are puzzled by the apparent lack of genorosity of a large percentage of their parishioners. The old adage that "20% of parishioners contribute 80% of the funds" still appears to be true today. Why is the average Christian so reluctant to give more of their hard earned money to the churches they attend? Authors Christian Smith and Michael O. Emerson attempt to get to the bottom of this conundrum in their important new book "Passing The Plate: Why American Christians Don't Give Away More Money". It seems that the issues in play here are more complex than the authors had ever imagined.

For those who serve as pastors, administrators or members of parish finance committees, the issues that are presented and disected in "Passing The Plate" certainly come as no surprise. While most of us can agree that raising money should not be the primary focus of any congregation it is indeed an important and necessary aspect of parish life. The statistics offered by Smith and Emerson are stunning. Did you know that 22.1% of Christians give absolutely nothing to charity in any given year? Would it trouble you to learn that most church going Christians donate only 2-3% of income to the church they attend and to other charities each year? Equally disturbing is that a mere 9.4% of Christians give 10% or more of income. Throughout the pages of "Passing The Plate" the authors strive to explain the sociological reasons for these trends.

Not surprisingly, what the authors discovered is that many churches do a very poor job in making the case for increased giving.
Read more ›
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Shi-Hsia Hwa VINE VOICE on October 20, 2008
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
As a teenaged pastor's kid suffering from "drug" abuse (my parents "drug" me to church all the time), I always wanted to get out as quickly as possible, so my father's annual budget presentation was an extra pain in the neck. I sat bored through several slides comparing the previous year's budget, actual income and expenditures, and the next year's.

After I grew up, left home, and attended several other churches (including one that my boyfriend and I quit after they moved to a Brobdingnagian new building and the senior pastor started begging for money), I began to understand why it was so important to show people where their money was going - transparency is critical if Christians are to trust their pastor to be a faithful steward of the money they hand to God.

"Passing the Plate" opens with a stunning vision: what we could do to change the world if only REGULAR American church attenders gave 10% of their income to religious and secular humanitarian causes. (Throughout the book, when "giving" is mentioned, the authors include all charitable giving, not just tithes to churches.) Billions more dollars would go into missions, food and medical aid, evangelism, education, and basic ministry. The fact that very little of this has happened yet is a stunning condemnation of Americans' stinginess.

American Christians certainly do better than non-religious Americans and people from other developed countries like in Western Europe. However, they do badly compared to Americans of other religions. Anyway, this is in the nature of comparing pots to kettles, since a very tiny minority actually gives away the full 10% or more.

After that, they present nine hypotheses as to why Christians don't give more - e.g.
Read more ›
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again

Customer Images

Most Recent Customer Reviews