Money on missions vs. pet costumes and Halloween

It’s that time of year again – time for a review of what Americans spend on Halloween vs. what they spend on foreign missions, and especially missions to the unreached.

As an aside, I sometimes see what Americans spend on dog food compared to what we spend on missions. I don’t think that’s really an apt comparison, because we have a responsibility for our pets, and they need to eat. But pet costumes are a different matter.

To start, let’s talk about mission spending:

How much is donated for mission to the unreached? That figure is unclear:

  • Variously, we estimate about 1% of the global amount, or about half a billion dollars.

  • By extension, we might estimate Americans donate about $20 million for mission to the unreached (1% of $2 billion)—but that’s a very fragile estimate.

By contrast, Americans will spend about $480 million on Halloween costumes for their pets (2019 figure).

  • So, Americans probably spend more on pet costumes than on mission to the unreached ($480m vs $20m)

  • but not more than they spend on missions in general ($480m vs $2 billion)

The trick with this is that it isn’t apples-to-oranges, exactly. We’re comparing what Americans as a whole spend on pet costumes to what (probably mostly) American Christians spend on missions. For example, what amount do American Christians spend on pet costumes? It’s probably less than $480 million. One very rough estimate is to suggest that since 60% of Americans are Christians (roughly), they spend 60% of the $480 million on costumes. But there are lots of obvious challenges to that estimate: how many American Christians celebrate Halloween? how many would spend money on animal costumes? (Actually, in theory, to me it’s more likely that an American Christian who wouldn’t celebrate Halloween in a big way might have a costume for a pet when they open the door to give candy to neighborhood kids.) Based on these very nebulous data points, is it possible or likely that American Christians spend more on costumes than on mission? I could go either way with that estimate.

11/5, this observation was updated from the 10/31 post to reflect 2021 data from MissioNexus on money spent on missions.

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