Evangelism activities in the last 12 months, by church size and theology…

Evangelism activities in the last 12 months, by denominational group…

Four out of ten pastors lack strong

interest in increasing community outreach

(Original release date:  January 3, 2007)  Research results released in the January/February edition of Facts & Trends magazine show just how involved U.S. Protestant churches are in evangelism and community outreach, as well as what obstacles hold them back from being even more involved. 

 

The findings are from a study conducted for Facts & Trends by Grey Matter Research & Consulting (formerly Ellison Research) of Phoenix, Arizona among a representative sample of 811 Protestant church ministers nationwide.

 

Senior ministers were asked about the activities their church has held over the past year specifically for the purpose of evangelism, as well as what types of community outreach and programs the church has offered.

 

The methods churches are using for evangelism are quite varied.  The most common is Vacation Bible School, or VBS, which has been used by seven out of 10 churches for evangelism in the last year.  At least half have used literature such as tracts or magazines (59 percent), events such as block parties or a Fall Festival (56 percent), musical events or concerts (51 percent), mailings or fliers (50 percent), and nursing home or retirement center visits (49 percent) specifically for the purposes of evangelism.

 

Other relatively popular evangelistic efforts include “invite a friend to church” days (42 percent), revivals or crusades (40 percent), evangelism training classes or groups (38 percent), door-to-door visitation within the community (37 percent), community service such as cleanup days (31 percent), online efforts such as blogs or websites (27 percent), audio or visual products such as tapes or DVDs (26 percent), and booths at community events such as the county fair (20 percent).

 

Ninety-seven percent of all churches report doing something specifically for the purposes of evangelism over the last year.

 

Just what churches are doing to evangelize their communities differs quite a bit by denominational group.  Southern Baptist churches are particularly big on using revivals or crusades, literature, evangelism training classes or groups, and door-to-door visitation, but are less likely than average to use any sort of online evangelism.  Other Baptist groups (National, Progressive, General, etc.) are fairly close to average, but are a bit more likely than others to use literature and door-to-door visitation.

 

Methodist churches are more likely than average to use events, but less likely to use literature, door-to-door visitation, and revivals or crusades.  Lutherans are particularly likely to rely on Vacation Bible School, online methods, and mailings or fliers, and less likely to use revivals or crusades, musical events or concerts, or audio/visual methods.  Pentecostal churches are particularly likely to employ musical events or concerts, revivals or crusades, “invite a friend to church” days, and audio/visual products, but less likely than average to use Vacation Bible School for evangelism.  Presbyterians are especially unlikely to use literature, revivals or crusades, door-to-door visitation, or audio/visual products.

 

In general, evangelical churches use a greater variety of evangelistic tools than do mainline Protestant churches.  Evangelical churches are considerably more likely to attempt evangelism through literature, revivals or crusades, evangelism training classes or groups, door-to-door visitation, and audio/visual products, while mainline churches have only a greater propensity for doing community service as a form of evangelism.

 

The survey also explored the kinds of community outreach or programs offered by churches.  Pastors were allowed to define their church’s involvement; for instance, a large, well-funded, daily day care center, and having the youth group volunteer to baby sit for single mothers within the congregation once a month, could both qualify as “free or low-cost day care.”

 

Only three types of outreach are offered by a majority of U.S. Protestant churches in a typical year:  food pantry, food collection, or other food-oriented donations (73 percent), Vacation Bible School (68 percent), and holiday food programs such as Christmas or Thanksgiving baskets for poor families (65 percent).

 

Other types of community outreach offered by much smaller proportions of churches in the last year include prison ministry (25 percent), homeless outreach (24 percent), Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts (20 percent), blood drives (17 percent), after-school programs for kids (14 percent), sports programs (11 percent), and outreach to specific ethnic groups (11 percent).

 

Fewer than one out of ten Protestant churches offer any kind of free or low-cost day care services, abortion or pregnancy counseling, domestic violence programs, English language classes, job skills or job training, or adult literacy or reading classes.

 

Just like with evangelism efforts, there are denominational differences in offering community outreach programs.  For instance, 46 percent of Methodist churches have some sort of homeless outreach, compared to just 10 percent of Southern Baptists.  However, with community outreach efforts there is also a larger pattern of commonality among evangelical churches and among mainline churches than exists with evangelism efforts.

 

While evangelical churches offer a greater variety of evangelism programs and efforts, mainline churches are offering a wider variety of community programs that aren’t necessarily involving evangelism.  Mainline churches as a group are more likely than evangelical churches to have food donations, holiday food programs, Vacation Bible School, homeless outreach, blood drives, Scouting, and domestic violence programs.  Evangelical churches are more likely to offer abortion or pregnancy counseling and sports programs, although still relatively few do either of those.

 

The study also delved into pastors’ reasons for their churches not being more involved in community outreach (regardless of how involved they are).  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).

 

Other significant obstacles explained by ministers are that there’s just not enough time to do everything (41 percent), lack of sufficient facilities (31 percent), that the congregation is mostly older people (26 percent), and that the church is located in a small town or rural area (25 percent).

 

In addition, 39 percent essentially are not highly interested in offering more programs for the community, saying they would rather focus on their own congregation than on the community, they would rather focus on spiritual needs than on physical needs, it’s not a major priority for their church, their community has no major needs, other organizations do these things better than they do, or their congregation or community really aren’t interested in community outreach.  This is consistent across all major denominational groups, as well as between evangelical and mainline churches.

 

Lack of volunteers, funds, and facilities is particularly acute within Pentecostal churches.  Methodist churches struggle with older congregations and rural settings more than average.  Southern Baptist and Presbyterian pastors also are more likely than average to cite a preponderance of older people in the congregation.  Lutheran ministers are less likely than others to point to a lack of resources such as staff, funds, and facilities, but more likely to say their congregation just isn’t interested in community outreach.

 

Ron Sellers, president of Grey Matter Research, found it ironic that so many churches and pastors put a low priority on doing more to reach out to their community.  “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,” Sellers observed.  “This lack of priority takes many forms – the congregation isn’t interested, the community doesn’t want our help, we want to focus on our own people – yet if churches are not consistently reaching outside their own walls, how are they to grow?  It was particularly surprising to see about four out of 10 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.”

 

Sellers also noted that while churches frequently cite a lack of staff, facilities, people, and/or money as reasons for not being more involved in the community, increasing those things doesn’t necessarily lead to greater involvement.  “In smaller churches, you often hear about limitations, and how things can be ‘once we grow,” Sellers said.  “But pastors in larger churches – which usually have more staff, more funds, larger facilities, and obviously more potential volunteers and lay leaders – still commonly name 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.  Having more resources at your disposal apparently doesn’t mean these obstacles are significantly reduced or removed.”

 

Study Details:

The study was conducted by Grey Matter Research (formerly Ellison Research), a marketing research company located in Phoenix, Arizona.  The sample of 811 Protestant ministers included only those who are actively leading churches.  The study’s total sample is accurate to within ±3.3 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’ age, geography, church size, and denomination were carefully tracked to ensure appropriate representation and accuracy.

The individual activity of one man with a backbone will do more

than a thousand men with a mere wishbone.

William J. H. Boetcker, Presbyterian Minister

Community outreach/programs offered in the last 12 months, by denominational group…

A PASSION FOR

RESEARCH THAT

MAKES A DIFFERENCE

Grey Matter logo

Community outreach/programs offered in the last 12 months, by church size and theology…

Reasons for not being more involved in community outreach, by denominational group…

Reasons for not being more involved in community outreach, by church size and theology…

 

Reasons

<100 People

100 – 199 People

200+ People

 

Mainline

 

Evangelical

Lack sufficient volunteers

62%

55%

49%

51%

62%

Lack sufficient staff

59

50

51

48

59

Lack sufficient lay leaders

53

54

43

48

54

Lack sufficient funds

54

45

43

46

52

Just not time to do everything

31

52

57

37

44

Lack sufficient facilities

36

26

28

28

32

Congregation is mostly older people

37

12

14

36

24

Small community/rural setting

31

19

15

28

24

Congregation isn’t really interested*

18

10

6

16

12

Rather focus on spiritual than physical needs*

13

9

11

4

13

Not sure how to go about outreach

12

10

9

12

11

Not a major priority for the church*

11

10

10

12

10

Others do a better job at it*

6

12

15

12

8

Prefer to focus within the congregation*

8

10

4

8

6

Tried before, it wasn’t successful

7

4

1

5

6

No major needs in our community*

4

4

2

3

4

Community isn’t really interested*

4

4

3

2

5

Other reasons

6

6

4

6

6

* Combined:  not interested in doing more

39

36

46

38

39

 

Evangelism Activities

<100 People

100 – 199 People

200+ People

 

Mainline

 

Evangelical

Vacation Bible School

60%

78%

85%

79%

67%

Literature (e.g. tracts or magazines)

58

59

65

44

69

Events (e.g. block parties, Fall festival)

49

63

70

58

57

Musical events or concerts

47

54

62

51

53

Mailings or fliers

46

47

64

53

49

Nursing home/retirement center visits

47

45

60

49

48

“Invite a friend to church” days

41

38

52

45

41

Revival or crusade

41

43

28

18

51

Evangelism training classes/groups

31

40

58

30

42

Door-to-door visitation in the community

38

34

36

24

43

Community service (e.g. cleanup days)

27

26

50

40

25

Online (e.g. blogs, web sites)

18

30

52

31

26

Audio/visual (e.g. tapes, DVDs)

20

29

40

18

30

Booth at county fair or other event

19

17

25

19

20

Sports programs

7

12

23

8

11

Telephone campaign to the community

5

3

6

4

5

Car care or car repair clinic

1

4

4

2

3

Other

13

14

19

13

15

Nothing specific

4

3

--

4

2

 

Evangelism Activities

 

All

Southern Baptist

Other Baptist

 

Methodist

 

Lutheran

 

Pentecostal

 

Presbyterian

All Others

Vacation Bible School

70%

80%

77%

79%

91%

47%

77%

64%

Literature (e.g. tracts or magazines)

59

78

73

46

56

62

41

49

Events (e.g. block parties, Fall festival)

56

53

48

70

54

67

69

48

Musical events or concerts

51

61

47

52

38

64

41

43

Mailings or fliers

50

43

47

51

67

53

55

47

Nursing home/retirement center visits

49

48

45

51

54

55

38

46

“Invite a friend to church” days

42

39

45

44

37

54

47

35

Revival or crusade

40

58

47

28

2

64

15

25

Evangelism training classes/groups

38

54

43

21

37

44

36

30

Door-to-door visitation

   in the community

 

37

 

65

 

48

 

30

 

37

 

37

 

23

 

19

Community service

   (e.g. cleanup days)

 

31

 

28

 

24

 

33

 

35

 

34

 

42

 

29

Online (e.g. blogs, websites)

27

16

23

26

41

33

29

30

Audio/visual (e.g. tapes, DVDs)

26

24

27

19

11

42

15

24

Booth at county fair or other event

20

19

14

27

25

22

23

16

Sports programs

11

13

12

9

6

12

5

12

Telephone campaign to the community

5

6

4

5

2

9

2

2

Car care or car repair clinic

2

4

6

--

2

3

--

--

Other

14

14

17

13

10

13

10

15

Nothing specific

3

2

3

1

3

--

5

6

 

Community Outreach/Programs

 

All

Southern Baptist

Other Baptist

 

Methodist

 

Lutheran

 

Pentecostal

 

Presbyterian

All  Others

Food pantry, collection, or donations

73%

69%

65%

85%

85%

69%

90%

72%

Vacation Bible School

68

70

74

77

90

45

75

65

Holiday food programs

   (e.g. Christmas baskets)

 

65

 

68

 

62

 

83

 

66

 

60

 

73

 

58

Prison ministry

25

20

23

26

21

37

23

22

Homeless outreach

24

10

18

46

22

24

27

23

Boy Scouts/Girl Scouts

20

8

13

39

36

13

51

18

Red Cross blood drive

17

17

12

26

30

6

33

19

After-school programs for kids

14

9

14

21

17

16

17

11

Outreach to a specific ethnic group

11

13

7

10

22

12

16

8

Sports programs

11

14

9

7

6

12

5

13

Free/low-cost day care services

7

6

3

12

8

6

2

10

Abortion or pregnancy counseling

7

12

9

4

2

7

--

7

Domestic violence programs

6

2

2

5

7

8

14

7

English language classes

5

5

8

5

14

2

12

3

Adult literacy/reading classes

3

3

1

4

3

4

5

1

Job skills/job training

3

4

2

1

3

3

--

3

Other

22

14

27

31

24

12

24

24

Nothing

4

3

3

--

2

8

2

6

 

Community Outreach/Programs

<100 People

100 – 199 People

200+ People

 

Mainline

 

Evangelical

Food pantry, collection, or donations

66%

81%

86%

87%

69%

Vacation Bible School

58

80

83

77

66

Holiday food programs (e.g. Christmas baskets)

57

72

81

73

61

Prison ministry

19

24

46

24

24

Homeless outreach

21

23

33

37

18

Boy Scouts/Girl Scouts

11

29

35

39

13

Red Cross blood drive

8

20

45

26

14

After-school programs for kids

9

17

26

18

12

Outreach to a specific ethnic group

9

11

14

11

11

Sports programs

6

13

22

7

12

Free/low-cost day care services

4

5

20

8

7

Abortion or pregnancy counseling

6

7

11

3

9

Domestic violence programs

5

5

8

9

4

English language classes

2

6

10

7

4

Adult literacy/reading classes

1

2

9

4

2

Job skills/job training

2

2

6

3

2

Other

20

23

24

32

17

Nothing

6

2

1

2

5

 

Reasons

 

All

Southern Baptist

Other Baptist

 

Methodist

 

Lutheran

 

Pentecostal

 

Presbyterian

All Others

Lack sufficient volunteers

58%

61%

54%

57%

52%

69%

47%

55%

Lack sufficient staff

56

55

56

56

39

63

44

55

Lack sufficient lay leaders

52

55

53

45

43

57

46

51

Lack sufficient funds

50

46

51

49

39

66

29

46

Just not time to do everything

41

37

39

39

43

43

48

44

Lack sufficient facilities

31

28

26

33

19

46

36

28

Congregation is mostly older people

26

34

20

37

30

14

34

26

Small community/rural setting

25

29

22

34

32

17

23

25

Congregation isn’t really interested*

13

14

5

20

25

9

14

15

Rather focus on spiritual

   than physical needs*

 

11

 

10

 

17

 

6

 

17

 

16

 

2

 

8

Not sure how to go about outreach

11

10

10

10

13

14

19

9

Not a major priority for the church*

10

6

10

9

14

12

12

12

Others do a better job at it*

9

6

10

4

16

4

17

15

Prefer to focus

   within the congregation*

 

7

 

4

 

8

 

3

 

10

 

9

 

14

 

9

Tried before, it wasn’t successful

5

4

3

4

5

4

5

8

No major needs in our community*

4

5

4

1

6

8

10

--

Community isn’t really interested*

4

9

4

1

4

--

5

4

Other reasons

6

5

6

6

7

4

3

7

*Combined: not interested

   in doing more

 

39

 

37

 

38

 

33

 

49

 

35

 

46

 

42