How informed pastors stay about secular/popular culture, by denominational group…

Pastors are less informed about popular

culture than are the people in their churches

(Original release date:  November 9, 2006)  Research results being released in the November/December edition of Facts & Trends magazine show just how informed Protestant ministers and laity are about today’s culture:  books, music, sports, celebrities, television programs, politics, magazines, radio and TV talk shows, movies, the internet, video and computer games, and clothing and fashion.  In general, pastors are less informed about the culture in which they live than are the people in their churches.

 

Two studies were conducted for Facts & Trends by Grey Matter Research (formerly Ellison Research) of Phoenix, Arizona. One is a representative sample of 797 Protestant church ministers nationwide, and the other is a companion survey of 1,184 adults who attend Protestant churches at least once a month. The studies asked each group to rate how informed they are about 12 different elements of today’s popular culture:  very informed, somewhat informed, not very informed, or they actively avoid it.

 

Not one of the 12 cultural elements show a majority of clergy or laity claiming to be very informed about it.  Pastors and churchgoers rarely try to avoid popular culture, but they often are relatively uninformed about cultural influences.

 

The area of today’s culture ministers tend to stay most informed about is politics, with 36 percent saying they are very informed about politics, and another 55 percent claiming to be somewhat informed on the subject.  This is the only one of the 12 areas included in the study about which ministers actually feel better informed than the laity – 29 percent of all churchgoers feel very informed about politics, and another 47 percent feel somewhat informed about it.

 

Pastors and laity feel about equally informed about sports.  Twenty-four percent of clergy feel very informed about sports in today’s culture, and another 44 percent are somewhat informed about this topic, with laity providing answers which are very similar.

 

On each of the other ten topics, laity feel significantly more informed about the culture surrounding them than do ministers.  Twenty percent of ministers feel very informed about the internet, compared to 43 percent of laity.  Nineteen percent of ministers feel very informed about what’s on television today, compared to 31 percent of laity.  Eighteen percent are very informed about books, compared to 27 percent of laity, and 16 percent are very informed about movies today, compared to 24 percent of laity.

 

Pastors rarely feel very informed about the other culture topics on the list:  radio and TV talk shows (12 percent, compared to 20 percent among laity), music (11 percent, versus 28 percent among laity), magazines (11 percent, compared to 17 percent among laity), clothing and fashion (7 percent, compared to 16 percent among laity), video and computer games (5 percent, compared to 16 percent among laity), and celebrities (4 percent, versus 10 percent among laity).

 

The areas where the greatest gaps exist between pastors and laity are in video and computer games, fashion, and celebrities.  Fifty-nine percent of ministers are uninformed about fashion, compared to 37 percent of the people in the pews.  Sixty-nine percent know next to nothing about celebrities, while this is true of 49 percent of their congregations.  And 71 percent are uninformed about video and computer games, while 49 percent of their congregants know next to nothing on this subject.

 

Among ministers, there are not dramatic differences in the findings by theology or denominational group.  Most differences among denominational groups (Methodists, Baptists, etc.) are fairly minor.  In general, mainline ministers tend to feel slightly more informed about books and movies than do evangelical pastors, but other areas are quite similar.

 

There are some differences according to age, however.  Younger ministers (under age 45) feel more informed about sports, the internet, music, clothing and fashion, celebrities, and video and computer games than do older pastors.  However, this is also true among the people attending their churches – younger people feel much more informed about these areas and others in today’s culture than do older laypeople.

 

Among the laity, how informed they are about the culture around them does not vary significantly according to how long people have attended their current church, whether they are involved in a mainline or evangelical church, how often they attend it, or whether they are in a volunteer leadership position within the church.

 

Ron Sellers, president of Grey Matter Research, pointed out that this research raises the question of whether churches are having an impact on how people interact with culture.  “There’s a long-term debate within Christendom about what is an appropriate level of involvement in popular culture.  Some Christians believe separation from the world is part of godly behavior, while others believe involvement in the world is necessary in order to reach out to the world,” Sellers observed.  “Either way, one might logically expect church involvement to change how a person looks at culture – either becoming more involved in order to have more effective outreach, or becoming less involved as they seek to lead a less worldly lifestyle.  But the data shows no difference in cultural awareness according to how frequently people attend church, how long they’ve been there, or whether they are in a leadership position.  This raises the question of how much churches actually impact how people live their daily lives.”

 

Sellers also noted that one criticism people often have about churches is that they are out of touch with the world around them.  “The data shows ministers are, generally speaking, not all that informed about the culture in which they seek to minister.  The people in the pews feel much more informed about the internet, movies, videogames, and other expressions of popular culture than do their pastors.  People are definitely impacted by the culture they consume – the web sites they visit or the music they listen to, for instance.  Pastors need to be informed about what’s out there in order to understand how the culture is influencing the people they are trying to reach,” Sellers said.

 

Study Details:

Both studies were conducted by Grey Matter Research (formerly Ellison Research), a marketing research company located in Phoenix, Arizona.  The sample of 802 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 sample of 1,184 people who attend a Protestant church once a month or more is accurate to within ±2.7 percentage points under the same parameters.

 

Both studies were conducted in all 50 states, using a representative sample of pastors and laity from all Protestant denominations.  Respondents’ gender, age, geography, church size, and denomination were carefully tracked to ensure appropriate representation and accuracy.

Television is the first truly democratic culture – the first culture

available to everybody and entirely governed by what the people

want.  The most terrifying thing is what people want.

Clive Barnes, Drama Critic

A PASSION FOR

RESEARCH THAT

MAKES A DIFFERENCE

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How informed laity stay about secular/popular culture, by denominational group…

Direct comparison of how informed clergy and laity are on secular/popular culture…

 

How Informed about Popular Culture

 

All

Southern Baptist

Other Baptist

 

Methodist

 

Lutheran

 

Pentecostal

 

Presbyterian

All Others

Politics:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     very informed

36%

35%

40%

30%

35%

38%

38%

36%

     somewhat informed

55

53

52

65

54

53

55

55

     not very informed

7

11

7

4

10

6

7

8

     actively avoid

2

1

1

1

--

3

--

2

Sports:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     very informed

24

28

20

21

28

20

25

26

     somewhat informed

44

43

56

42

46

39

50

39

     not very informed

26

24

20

33

23

29

23

27

     actively avoid

6

5

4

4

3

12

2

7

The Internet:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     very informed

20

14

14

27

30

20

16

22

     somewhat informed

51

50

44

54

46

54

56

53

     not very informed

22

27

38

13

18

14

23

18

     actively avoid

7

9

4

6

6

12

5

7

Television programs:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     very informed

19

18

15

20

25

18

20

20

     somewhat informed

56

61

64

60

47

50

52

54

     not very informed

20

16

17

15

24

24

23

21

     actively avoid

5

5

4

5

4

8

5

5

Books:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     very informed

18

20

11

18

26

17

32

19

     somewhat informed

60

52

66

70

51

60

55

58

     not very informed

21

26

22

12

23

22

13

22

     actively avoid

1

2

2

--

--

--

--

1

Movies:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     very informed

16

15

10

23

23

16

26

15

     somewhat informed

51

45

56

50

62

47

50

54

     not very informed

27

33

29

26

14

25

17

28

     actively avoid

6

7

6

1

1

12

7

4

Radio and TV talk shows:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     very informed

12

13

12

10

18

17

10

8

     somewhat informed

46

37

46

50

40

53

44

45

     not very informed

34

44

33

27

36

25

32

39

     actively avoid

8

6

8

13

5

6

15

8

Music:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     very informed

11

13

8

10

16

9

5

13

     somewhat informed

46

42

48

54

44

44

52

45

     not very informed

39

38

39

34

38

42

43

39

     actively avoid

4

7

6

2

2

4

--

3

Magazines:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     very informed

11

10

6

12

20

3

14

16

     somewhat informed

43

37

50

48

52

46

59

36

     not very informed

41

47

40

40

28

42

19

45

     actively avoid

4

6

4

--

--

8

7

4

Clothing and fashion:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     very informed

7

8

6

9

14

10

2

5

     somewhat informed

34

33

34

27

27

44

34

33

     not very informed

52

52

58

62

54

36

47

53

     actively avoid

7

7

2

2

4

11

17

9

Video and computer games:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     very informed

5

5

5

8

11

3

5

3

     somewhat informed

24

25

24

22

25

26

31

21

     not very informed

54

54

59

58

48

47

40

57

     actively avoid

17

15

12

12

16

25

24

19

Celebrities:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     very informed

4

4

3

4

13

1

2

4

     somewhat informed

28

21

23

37

26

30

33

28

     not very informed

54

60

65

47

55

49

54

50

     actively avoid

15

16

9

12

7

20

10

18

How Informed

about Popular Culture

 

All

Southern Baptist

Other Baptist

 

Methodist

 

Lutheran

 

Pentecostal

 

Presbyterian

Non-
Denom.

All Others

Politics:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     very informed

29%

30%

24%

23%

36%

32%

39%

30%

29%

     somewhat informed

47

56

57

48

35

39

46

51

44

     not very informed

18

11

13

18

26

24

15

14

19

     actively avoid

6

2

5

11

3

6

--

5

8

Sports:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     very informed

24

23

28

19

25

25

22

28

19

     somewhat informed

39

43

35

42

43

31

55

31

41

     not very informed

28

27

28

26

26

31

18

33

30

     actively avoid

10

7

9

13

6

14

5

7

10

The Internet:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     very informed

43

47

41

30

48

39

54

57

38

     somewhat informed

46

41

47

50

43

57

38

37

50

     not very informed

9

12

11

13

7

4

8

4

11

     actively avoid

2

--

1

7

2

--

--

2

1

Television programs:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     very informed

31

25

35

26

34

37

46

33

27

     somewhat informed

50

56

46

52

54

45

34

48

51

     not very informed

17

17

17

22

11

17

18

12

19

     actively avoid

3

2

2

1

1

1

1

7

3

Books:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     very informed

27

23

23

18

37

23

39

32

27

     somewhat informed

52

59

56

55

46

50

52

54

50

     not very informed

18

16

19

20

17

27

10

13

17

     actively avoid

3

2

1

8

--

--

--

2

6

Movies:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     very informed

24

22

27

22

17

24

22

37

17

     somewhat informed

46

48

39

44

50

45

49

47

48

     not very informed

23

18

31

26

28

21

28

12

25

     actively avoid

7

12

3

7

5

11

--

4

10

Radio and TV talk shows:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     very informed

20

24

22

15

32

17

15

17

15

     somewhat informed

46

53

40

43

43

46

64

48

45

     not very informed

28

19

34

25

21

34

15

29

33

     actively avoid

7

4

4

18

4

3

6

7

7

Music:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     very informed

28

30

26

17

27

30

47

33

25

     somewhat informed

51

48

45

61

58

50

36

51

52

     not very informed

18

18

26

15

11

20

12

14

20

     actively avoid

3

4

3

8

4

--

5

2

2

Magazines:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     very informed

17

15

23

12

22

16

14

19

15

     somewhat informed

47

52

48

52

39

49

61

46

42

     not very informed

31

28

27

28

28

34

22

30

37

     actively avoid

5

5

2

8

10

1

3

4

6

Clothing and fashion:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     very informed

16

16

16

11

11

19

15

23

14

     somewhat informed

48

50

53

55

43

52

65

39

42

     not very informed

30

30

27

25

30

27

16

33

35

     actively avoid

7

5

4

9

17

3

3

5

8

Video and computer games:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     very informed

16

20

20

10

12

16

9

24

12

     somewhat informed

34

30

39

37

32

34

29

38

30

     not very informed

35

37

32

33

29

40

47

29

42

     actively avoid

14

13

9

20

27

10

15

9

17

Celebrities:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     very informed

10

6

14

10

7

8

13

12

8

     somewhat informed

41

47

32

39

38

47

53

40

40

     not very informed

36

37

37

32

41

35

34

33

38

     actively avoid

13

9

18

19

14

10

--

14

14

How Informed about Popular Culture

Clergy

Laity

Politics:

 

 

     very informed

36%

29%

     somewhat informed

55

47

     not very informed

7

18

     actively avoid

2

6

Sports:

 

 

     very informed

24

24

     somewhat informed

44

39

     not very informed

26

28

     actively avoid

6

10

The Internet:

 

 

     very informed

20

43

     somewhat informed

51

46

     not very informed

22

9

     actively avoid

7

2

Television programs:

 

 

     very informed

19

31

     somewhat informed

56

50

     not very informed

20

17

     actively avoid

5

3

Books:

 

 

     very informed

18

27

     somewhat informed

60

52

     not very informed

21

18

     actively avoid

1

3

Movies:

 

 

     very informed

16

24

     somewhat informed

51

46

     not very informed

27

23

     actively avoid

6

7

Radio and TV talk shows:

 

 

     very informed

12

20

     somewhat informed

46

46

     not very informed

34

28

     actively avoid

8

7

Music:

 

 

     very informed

11

28

     somewhat informed

46

51

     not very informed

39

18

     actively avoid

4

3

Magazines:

 

 

     very informed

11

17

     somewhat informed

43

47

     not very informed

41

31

     actively avoid

4

5

Clothing and fashion:

 

 

     very informed

7

16

     somewhat informed

34

48

     not very informed

52

30

     actively avoid

7

7

Video and computer games:

 

 

     very informed

5

16

     somewhat informed

24

34

     not very informed

54

35

     actively avoid

17

14

Celebrities:

 

 

     very informed

4

10

     somewhat informed

28

41

     not very informed

54

36

     actively avoid

15

13