Pastors are more concerned about outreach and evangelism than getting congregants to give more money, according to the findings of a national study of U.S. clergy by research firm Barna Group. When asked what areas they would most like to see develop or grow in the next year with their church or ministry, 46 percent of pastors said they are most interested in outreach and evangelism.
Despite a struggling economy that has seen record numbers of churches facing foreclosure, only 3 percent mentioned stewardship or giving.
"I was amazed and very encouraged by this report," said Gerard Long, president of evangelistic organization Alpha USA, which commissioned the study. More than 4,300 churches in the U.S. use the course, Alpha records show.
Long believes the study "reflects a changing trend in the church in America."
"Jesus taught and lived a 'Go!' model for outreach," he said. "People want to see a more missional side to church … an impact on society."
Barna reported that 32 percent of pastors said they wanted to grow a specific area of ministry, with youth and children ministires being the areas noted most often. Half the pastors who mentioned a specific ministry said youth was an area they would like to grow.
Long linked the finding with Alpha's growth in popularity, pointing out that in the last year there has been a 62 percent increase in the use of Alpha's youth curriculum and a 50 percent increase in its college curriculum.
For the study, Barna conducted 600 telephone interviews with a representative sample of senior pastors of Protestant and Catholic churches from within the 48 continental states.
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