A new research study found that 39 percent of American pastors are not highly interested in offering more community outreach programs.
The finding is from a study conducted for Facts & Trends, a bimonthly magazine by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, which was released on Wednesday. Ellison Research conducted the study using a representative sample of 811 Protestant church ministers in all 50 states.
Four out of every ten pastors not highly interested in expanding outreach programs said they would rather focus on their own congregation, would rather focus on spiritual needs rather than physical needs, or that it’s not a major priority for their church, among other explanations.
Ron Sellers, president of Ellison Research, found the results of the study ironic, “In an environment where communities and people have so many needs, and in which church growth is such a hot topic and a stated goal for so many pastors, it seems odd that so many churches really don’t wish to do more.
“It was particularly surprising to see about four out of ten mainline pastors, who tend to place so much emphasis on the social gospel, essentially saying that increasing community outreach isn’t a high priority for their church,” added Sellers.
Other problems common to at least half of all churches include lacking sufficient volunteers (58 percent), sufficient staff (56 percent), sufficient lay leaders (52 percent), and sufficient funds (50 percent).
Sellers said that smaller churches often talk about its limitations for outreach, but even larger churches which have more funds, facilities, and volunteers still commonly list the lack of these resources as obstacles to being more involved in the community.
“Plus, they are much more likely to add to the mix a lack of time to accomplish everything,” said Sellers. “Having more resources at your disposal apparently doesn't mean these obstacles are significantly reduced or removed."
The reasons given for lack of interest in community outreach were consistent across all major denominational groups, as well as between evangelical and mainline churches, according to the study.
Despite the lack of interest for increase community outreach by 39 percent of pastors, however, 97 percent of the churches reported doing something specifically for the purposes of evangelism over the last year.