Classes offered to the congregation at least once a year...

Most education offered by churches is

related to religion rather than daily life

(Original release date:  November 8, 2005)  Research results released in the November/December edition of Facts & Trends magazine show the only type of class or education a majority of all Protestant churches regularly offer to their congregation is a new member class.

 

The study, conducted by Grey Matter Research (formerly Ellison Research) of Phoenix, Arizona among a representative sample of 872 Protestant church ministers nationwide, explored what types of classes or education churches offer at least once a year (not including sermon topics on the subject).

 

The average Protestant church offers regular classes or education on 4.6 different topics in a typical year.  However, this number is 3.5 topics or classes among churches with an average attendance of fewer than 100 people, 4.5 among churches with 100 to 199 people, and 7.9 among churches with 200 people or more.  These numbers would not include “ad hoc” education, such as a class offered only one time, or once every three or four years.

 

The most common type of class or education churches consistently offer is for new members (60% offer this at least once a year).  Following this are classes on the basics of Christianity (47%), how to study the Bible (43%), evangelism or outreach training (39%), spiritual growth or spiritual renewal (37%), and effective prayer (35%).

 

Other relatively common types of education include a spiritual gifts inventory (31%), marriage enrichment (28%), leadership development (26%), the basics of the church’s denominational perspectives (25%), and parenting or child development (20%).

 

Types of education regularly offered by relatively few churches include financial management (17%), a skills and talents profile (15%), grief recovery (9%), substance abuse recovery (8%), health, weight loss, or exercise (7%), ministry in the workplace (5%), divorce recovery (5%), and life skills (4%).  Only 4% of all ministers report any other type of class being offered by their church at least once a year.

 

There are significant differences in what churches offer according to their size and denomination.  For one thing, for almost every type of class, larger churches are significantly more likely to offer that type of education than are smaller or mid-size churches.  Only ministry in the workplace shows no difference by church size.  Sometimes the differences are relatively small (such as the basics of the church’s denominational perspective, which is offered annually by 33% of large, 25% of mid-size, and 21% of small churches); sometimes the differences are dramatic (such as marriage enrichment, offered by 56% of large, 33% of mid-size, and only 16% of small churches).

 

There are also differences by denominational or theological perspective (mainline versus evangelical).  Churches from mainline denominations are more likely than those from evangelical denominations to offer regular education on how to study the Bible, denominational basics, and grief recovery.  Evangelical churches are more likely than mainline churches to offer regular education on evangelism or outreach training, marriage enrichment, financial management, and parenting or child development.

 

Getting down to specific denominations, the sample size is large enough to allow analysis of six distinct denominational groups:  Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, Southern Baptist, other Baptist, and Pentecostal/charismatic churches (although many other denominations are represented in the total sample).

 

Southern Baptist churches are somewhat less likely than average to offer regular classes in the basics of Christianity, the basics of their denominational beliefs, and how to study the Bible, but they are more likely than average to offer education on marriage enrichment and evangelism or outreach training.  As a group, Baptist denominations other than the Southern Baptist Convention are fairly average in what they offer their congregations.

 

Methodist churches are less likely than average to offer regular education on evangelism or outreach training, but more likely than average to offer classes on the basics of their denominational perspectives.

 

Lutherans are much less likely than average to hold regular education on effective prayer, but much more likely than average to hold new member classes and education on their denominational perspectives.

 

Presbyterians are less likely than average to educate people on marriage enrichment, financial management, and evangelism or outreach training, and more likely to have classes for new members and on denominational perspectives.

 

Pentecostal and charismatic churches rarely offer regular education on grief recovery, but are somewhat more likely than average to offer education on marriage enrichment, effective prayer, leadership development, and financial management.

 

Ron Sellers, president of Grey Matter Research, noted that this study did not include topics which are the focus of a sermon series, or which are offered on an irregular basis.  “What we measured in this study was the issues to which churches have a regular, ongoing commitment – offering them at least once a year,” Sellers explained.

 

Sellers also noted that the study helps demonstrate what churches really emphasize.  “Churches are focusing on the basics:  what is Christianity, what is necessary for church membership, how to study the Bible.  When they go deeper, they tend to focus on basic Christian practices:  prayer, evangelism, and spiritual growth.  These are all critical, but churches also need to recognize why many people come through their doors in the first place – often they’re seeking real-life answers to marriage problems, issues at work, raising children, or financial worries.  Many of these ‘daily life’ issues are not regularly dealt with in churches.

 

“Even in large congregations, a majority are not offering regular education on financial management, divorce recovery, leadership, workplace ministry, or health issues, and just over half consistently offer anything on parenting, spiritual gifts, or marriage.  The more a church can move the congregation’s involvement from a ‘religious’ experience to living out their faith on a daily basis, the more that church can effect a real change in people’s lives and in their communities,” Sellers stated.

 

Study Details:

The study was conducted by Grey Matter Research (formerly Ellison Research), a marketing research company located in Phoenix, Arizona.  The sample of 872 Protestant ministers included only those who are actively leading churches.  The study’s total sample is accurate to within ±3.2 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level with a 50 percent response distribution.

 

The study was conducted in all 50 states, using a representative sample of pastors from all Protestant denominations.  Respondents’ geography, church size, and denomination were carefully tracked to ensure appropriate representation and accuracy.

 

Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any

more than going to the garage makes you a car.

Laurence J. Peter, professor of education

Classes offered, by major denominational group...

A PASSION FOR

RESEARCH THAT

MAKES A DIFFERENCE

Grey Matter logo

Classes offered, by region of the country...

 

Classes/Education Offered

 

All

Small

Church

Midsize

Church

Large

Church

 

Mainline

 

Evangelical

New membership

60%

50%

64%

87%

67%

61%

Basics of Christianity

47

39

52

65

48

49

How to study the Bible

43

38

41

60

56

38

Evangelism/outreach training

39

29

43

62

22

49

Spiritual growth/renewal

37

33

34

53

40

34

Effective prayer

35

31

30

52

27

36

Spiritual gifts inventory

31

23

31

55

28

32

Marriage enrichment

28

16

33

56

17

34

Leadership development

26

21

25

45

22

27

Basics of church’s denominational perspectives

25

21

25

33

38

23

Parenting/child development

20

9

15

55

14

21

Financial management

17

10

13

40

6

21

Skills and talents profile

15

9

17

34

18

16

Grief recovery

9

5

7

25

14

7

Recovery from substance abuse

8

6

6

15

6

8

Health/weight loss/exercise

7

4

5

19

7

8

Ministry in the workplace

5

5

4

7

3

6

Divorce recovery

5

3

2

16

3

6

Life skills

4

2

5

9

4

3

 

Classes/Education Offered

 

All

Southern

Baptist

Other

Baptist

 

Methodist

 

Lutheran

 

Pentecostal

 

Presbyterian

All

Others

New membership

60%

52%

51%

58%

84%

62%

76%

66%

Basics of Christianity

47

36

46

39

58

55

41

53

How to study the Bible

43

32

45

45

55

37

50

53

Evangelism/outreach training

39

54

48

24

31

38

19

32

Spiritual growth/renewal

37

34

39

36

38

31

47

39

Effective prayer

35

34

39

26

15

46

23

38

Spiritual gifts inventory

31

37

27

30

22

37

23

36

Marriage enrichment

28

36

26

20

16

37

12

28

Leadership development

26

22

21

22

20

38

29

31

Basics of church’s

   denominational perspectives

 

25

 

17

 

19

 

36

 

43

 

26

 

45

 

22

Parenting/child development

20

25

21

12

10

16

25

20

Financial management

17

24

14

11

7

29

4

17

Skills and talents profile

15

18

10

14

22

16

16

21

Grief recovery

9

11

10

16

16

2

7

11

Recovery from substance abuse

8

8

6

10

10

8

7

7

Health/weight loss/exercise

7

12

2

9

12

4

12

8

Ministry in the workplace

5

6

6

2

2

6

2

7

Divorce recovery

5

8

5

8

4

5

2

5

Life skills

4

2

5

4

3

5

4

5

Classes/Education Offered

All

Northeast

Midwest

South

West

New membership

60%

68%

65%

52%

60%

Basics of Christianity

47

53

48

39

53

How to study the Bible

43

44

49

41

40

Evangelism/outreach training

39

34

36

43

42

Spiritual growth/renewal

37

36

39

37

37

Effective prayer

35

32

35

37

35

Spiritual gifts inventory

31

18

28

34

38

Marriage enrichment

28

23

29

26

32

Leadership development

26

22

27

24

31

Basics of church’s denominational perspectives

25

27

26

23

25

Parenting/child development

20

14

18

21

24

Financial management

17

7

18

17

20

Skills and talents profile

15

8

21

15

14

Grief recovery

9

6

10

8

12

Recovery from substance abuse

8

5

6

7

12

Health/weight loss/exercise

7

5

8

9

6

Ministry in the workplace

5

1

3

9

6

Divorce recovery

5

3

4

6

8

Life skills

4

6

5

2

5