A new study released by the Barna Research group showed that most Protestant churches failed to provide direct “human” assistance over the phone, Jan. 26.
The study, based on 3,400-attempted contact with randomly selected churches across the nation during December, revealed that a “human” could not be reached 55% of the times. In addition, 19% of the churches had neither a person nor an answering machine to respond to the calls.
Sixteen percent of the churches had an answering machine responding to all five attempts, and twenty percent had either an answering machine or no answer at all during the initial five hours.
The study organized the statistics by denomination and geographical region, and found variable differences between the groups.
The denominations that provided the most “human responses” were the United Methodists, 64%, National Baptist, 62% and Southern Baptists, 61%. The denominations that were the least responsive were Baptist churches other than Southern or National Baptist, 35%, Holiness churches, 38%, Church of God in Christ, 44%, and the Christian/Church of Christ congregations, 56%.
Churches most likely to have neither a human nor a machine response were the Holiness group, 30%, COGIC congregations, 27% and Baptist churches other than Southern and National Baptists, 24%.
By regions, the research indicated that the most reachable churches were those in the Mountain and western states; 65% of the Protestant churches in that area provided a response by a human being within the first five call attempts. The toughest area in which to make personal contact was the South; 36% of the churches in the southern states had a personal response to a call within the first five contact attempts. The churches in the Midwest and Northeast responded 49% and 52% of the time respectively.
The Barna group concluded that “These statistics suggest that much of the hard work that churches put into reaching people during the holiday season may be negated by people’s inability to establish contact with someone at the church within a reasonable time frame.”
George Barna, director of the study, noted, “Instant communication has become second-nature in our world. With cell phones, instant messaging, and other high tech means of facilitating immediate contact with others, organizations that seemingly defy people to penetrate their fortress quickly become an after-thought in people’s lives. Busy schedules, competitiveness and questions about the user-friendly quotient of churches make it increasingly unlikely that consumers – especially those who are not connected or only marginally associated with a church – will endure the frustration of difficult communication to pursue a church. If ministry is based on relationships and interaction, then many churches might find it easier to penetrate the community if they were more accessible to the people who are showing an interest in the church.”
The Barna Research Group, Ltd. is an independent marketing research company located in southern California. Since 1984, it has been studying cultural trends related to values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors.