Is the church handing out discounts?

Is the church handing out discounts?

German protestants are discussing church tax rebates for young professionals in response to the recordsetting church withdrawals. However, a discount campaign alone cannot help the Church to win their members back.

Record in both church withdrawal and religious tax in 2019
Tens of thousands of people have reportedly de-registered from both the Protestant and Catholic Church in Germany in 2019.[1] But church taxation revenues are still on the rise: the Catholic Church collected a record 6.67 billion euros in obligatory religious taxes, 1.8% more than the previous year, while German Protestants received 5.96 billion euros; an increase of 2.7% compared to 2018.[2] However, the churches are bracing themselves for a major slump in church taxation revenues as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and a sharp drop in church membership.[3]

In Germany, wage earners who declare membership to a religious faith are obliged to pay a church tax. This tax is deducted from their wages by state financial authorities and passed on to the churches.[4] Those ending their membership officially opt out of the church tax which accounts for the continuing wealth of the Church. [5]

EKD’s attempt to cease the exodus
In early August, Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, chairman of the Protestant Church in Germany (EKD), announced that there is an ongoing debate about whether it is reasonable to reduce the church tax for career starters straight away. [6] According to official church statistics, young people within the age range 18-30 are most likely to leave the church among all members.[7] Moreover, German Protestants are discussing being more flexible towards church tax in general. They might take different life situations of Christians into consideration that the Canon Law has not yet provided for, but that are human and understandable, such as people who are confronted with financial problems.[8]

The essential motive for church exit
Nevertheless, speculations that church tax is the key motive for church withdrawal are proved to be untrue. Rather, religious indifference and the growing mistrust of church institutions play a more significant role in the church exodus.[9] Though the concept behind this action might be appropriate, a discount campaign alone cannot help the church to win their members back. [10]

More important than a discount on church tax is transparency. Therefore, the discussions about church taxes should be communicated openly and transparently to both former and current members of the Church.

Han Chang


[1] Diese Konsequenzen hat ein Kirchenaustritt – katholisch.de
[2] Neue Zahlen: Rekord-Hoch bei Kirchensteuereinnahmen 2019
[3] Germany: Catholic Church sees record drop in membership | DW | 26.06.2020, German bishops expect decline in church tax revenue due to COVID-19
[4] German bishops expect decline in church tax revenue due to COVID-19
[5] Germany: Catholic Church sees record drop in membership, Sozialethiker: Verwendung der Kirchensteuer klar kommunizieren
[6] “Unsinn”: Bedford-Strohm verteidigt Kirche gegen Kritik in Pandemie
[7] Religionssoziologe: Debatte über Kirchensteuer ist “angemessen”
[8] Religionssoziologe: Kirchensteuer-Rabatt für Jüngere wäre angemessen
[9] Religionssoziologe: Debatte über Kirchensteuer ist “angemessen” , Sozialethiker: Verwendung der Kirchensteuer klar kommunizieren
[10] Sozialethiker: Verwendung der Kirchensteuer klar kommunizieren