With thousands of job losses and America in a recession, pastors are taking an active role in teaching stewardship and responding to the economic woes.
A new study by LifeWay Research showed that a majority (65 percent) of pastors in Southern Baptist churches have preached sermons specifically addressing financial stewardship and giving.
Only 15 percent of Southern Baptist pastors said their churches did not conduct any type of stewardship emphasis.
Many know their congregants are seeking guidance on financial matters but LifeWay found that pastors underestimate the seriousness of personal debt many congregants may be in.
According to survey results, only 25 percent of pastors from the Southern Baptist Convention – the largest Protestant denomination in the country – believe members of their congregation as a whole have a significant amount of personal debt.
Scott McConnell, associate director of LifeWay Research, pointed out the discrepancy between what the pastors believe and national statistics regarding debt.
"In 2006, household debt in America grew by $1.2 trillion – a one-year increase larger than the total amount of household debt just 30 years ago," McConnell noted.
In other findings, only 19 percent of pastors believe members of their church look to the church for guidance in improving their financial management skills; 47 percent believe their congregants are looking elsewhere for guidance.
At the same time, 67 percent of SBC pastors said congregants are open to teaching or preaching on the subject of stewardship.
SBC churches have been active in meeting stewardship needs. The survey revealed that 48 percent of SBC pastors said their church conducted a planned giving or estate planning emphasis; 32 percent said their church shared testimonies of people who gave faithfully/sacrificially; 24 percent said their church offered Sunday school lessons on financial stewardship, money management or debt reduction; 20 percent used a bulletin insert to promote financial stewardship; giving; and 18 percent conducted a Stewardship Sunday emphasis.
Among the resources churches used in their stewardship activities were materials from Crown Financial Ministries (used by 14 percent), Davey Ramsey (13 percent), Larry Burkett (9 percent), Empowering Kingdom Growth (6 percent), and others.
The survey is based on responses from 3,500 senior pastors in Southern Baptist congregations in November and December 2007.