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Church, career data to help BSSB respond

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Information about pastors’ careers, work lifestyles and church profiles gleaned from 1,400 responses to a random survey by the Baptist Sunday School Board will help the Southern Baptist agency respond more effectively to the needs of pastors and churches, leaders say.
Professional development needs of pastors and administrative needs of churches can be better met with the insights the survey provided, said Mike Miller, director of the board’s church leadership services division.
Don Mathis, director of the board’s pastor-staff leadership department that administered the project, said while much of the survey data “validates awareness we have had about pastors and their churches, additional insights are gained when such detailed information is provided us.”
Less than 1 percent of respondents listed high school as the highest level of educational institution attended, while 88 percent said they had either seminary or postgraduate training. And more than half attended or graduated from a Southern Baptist college or seminary. Adding those who graduated from both a Southern Baptist institution and a non-Southern Baptist institution increased the total to almost 86 percent.
Almost 80 percent of respondents indicated their training was good to excellent in preparing them for total ministry. However, responses also indicate they do not feel as well prepared for administration and leadership as they are for preaching and ministry.
While 72 percent indicated they are not involved in any kind of formal education for self-improvement, 95 percent said they have a self-directed, self-improvement program such as attending conferences and seminars and reading books and magazines to improve their ministries.
Half the pastors said they regularly attend state convention-sponsored and Sunday School Board-sponsored events, and 45 percent said they regularly attend the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention or other national conventions.
In ranking what they felt to be their top three ministry gifts from a list of 12, teaching, shepherding and exhortation placed highest in that order. Administration, evangelism, leadership, prophecy and service ranked next, with enough difference in percentages to indicate a perceived need for help in these areas.
Slightly more than one-fourth of respondents are the only staff member at their churches. Of the remaining pastors, the most frequently mentioned “other” staff positions were music, secretarial, youth and education staff. The number of volunteer and part-time persons occupying those positions was not indicated.
Memberships of 50 to 1,999 made up 93 percent of participating pastors’ churches, with equal responses between 50-499 members and those of 500-1,999 persons. Average Sunday school attendance of 500 or fewer persons was indicated by 92 percent of pastors. Sunday morning worship attendance of 500 or fewer was indicated by slightly more than 89 percent of participants in the survey.
All but 117 pastors indicated their churches are growing or stable.
“Generally accepted statistics present a more pessimistic view,” Mathis observed. “Perhaps this indicates the positive, optimistic nature of most pastors.”
Growing churches represented 58 percent; stable churches, 38 percent; and the remaining 8 percent are assumed to be declining in membership, based on responses.
Changing worship styles have positively affected 66 percent of churches represented in the study, pastors reported. An additional 24 percent said changing styles had exerted no impact on their churches, while approximately 6.5 percent indicated changes in worship styles had a negative impact.
Written vision/mission statements exist in 46 percent of respondents’ churches, while almost 70 percent indicated they see evidence that genuine spiritual renewal is occurring in their churches. Only 8 percent cited evangelism as the means to contribute to spiritual renewal. Most often cited were preaching/teaching, prayer and daily renewal of the pastor.
More than 91 percent of pastors responding indicated they are licensed, while 99 percent said they are ordained. Of the 1,400 responding, 94 percent described themselves as full-time, vocational pastors, while fewer than 6 percent described themselves as bivocational.
The highest number of respondents said they had been a pastor between 16 and 20 years, followed by six to 10 years, 11 to 15 years, 21 to 25 years and one to five years. Six indicated they had been pastors for more than 50 years. At their present churches, 12 percent had been pastor for 11 to 15 years. The next-largest group had been pastor for five years. The largest number of pastors — 299 — had been pastor of three churches.
Just under 70 percent of the pastors reported they are the primary leader in conducting worship services in their churches.
In the area of leadership and ministry roles for laypersons, slightly more than half the pastors said they use a ministry gifts inventory to help members determine their gifts. An even higher percentage — 79 — said they make a deliberate effort to match members’ ministry gifts with ministry opportunities.
In contrast, 71 percent said they do not have a systematic method for discovering and developing leaders; 52 percent have no systematic method for supporting members involved in ministry; and 70 percent have no systematic method for celebrating members’ spiritual growth.
By far, pastors ranked deacons highest, by 60 percent of response, in assistance to them as they lead the church, followed by the church council and church staff. More than 92 percent indicated they have a functioning committee structure in their churches. Planning is done monthly by 611 respondents, followed by quarterly (381), annually (280) and semiannually (99).
For fellowship and learning, almost 75 percent network with other ministers. Most pastors rated their church staff relationships as productive to very productive. Only 3 percent described their staff relationships as unproductive.
Mathis said information related to the pastor’s professional role will be used to enhance the resources of LeaderSkill, a relatively new initiative of the board focusing on essential leadership functions.
“Our desire is for every pastor and staff leader to discover core personal leadership essentials, learn the importance of personal spiritual development and develop disciplines to ensure a balanced and healthy personal and professional ministry life,” Mathis said.

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  • Charles Willis