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Evangelicals largely satisfied with all aspects of church, new study finds

Most evangelicals are largely happy with their churches, including 85 percent who say their pastor's sermons are the right length.

EXPORT, Pa. (BP) – The vast majority of evangelicals are satisfied with many characteristics of their membership church, variously including preaching, music, diversity, gender leadership roles and other areas, leading ministry researchers report.

More than 38 percent of churchgoers wouldn’t change a thing among the 14 categories studied, according to “The Congregational Scorecard: What Evangelicals Want in a Church” released Thursday and jointly conducted by Infinity Concepts and Grey Matter Research.

“Evangelicals are mostly quite satisfied with their church. It’s time leaders get to spend some time feeling good about what they’re getting right rather than always hearing about what they’re getting wrong,” Grey Matter Research President Ron Sellers told Baptist Press.

“One of the big takeaways for me is that there’s this negative stereotype of church as having lengthy, boring sermons in the middle of lengthy, boring services,” Sellers said. “Pastors constantly hear complaints from people, or ‘experts’ telling them how to do church ‘better.’ I hope pastors get to see that, by and large, these negative stereotypes aren’t true.”

Specifically, the study conducted among more than 1,000 evangelical Protestants found that:

  • 85 percent are satisfied with the length of sermons and services;
  • 68 percent are satisfied with the amount of political involvement and/or political messages;
  • 77 percent are fine with the number of women in church leadership, including 78 percent of women;
  • and 74 percent are satisfied with the level of racial and ethnic diversity in their church.

Still, about 80 percent of evangelicals would make changes to at least one category studied. Researchers said:

  • 11 percent would like more political involvement or political messages; while 22 percent prefer less;
  • 30 percent would like more in-depth teaching;
  • 32 percent would like a different type of music, almost evenly split between more traditional offerings (18 percent) and more contemporary music (15 percent);
  • 38 percent would like more community outreach;
  • 27 percent would like more focus on evangelism;
  • and 23 percent want more diversity.

Congregational satisfaction doesn’t necessarily indicate biblical correctness or church effectiveness, researchers said.

“This study reflects what evangelicals want in a church. Sometimes, what we want isn’t necessarily what we need or what’s good for us,” Sellers said. “For instance, most people are fine with how often they’re asked for money in church. Does that mean the church is doing a great job on that, or could it mean the congregation has become complacent and the church does nothing to challenge them on the subject of stewardship? In our study ‘The Generosity Factor,’ we saw that very few evangelicals even come close to a tithe, which suggests some of the latter is going on in churches today.”

The findings are from the fourth in a series of studies Grey Matter Research, based in Phoenix, Ariz., and Infinity Concepts in Export, Pa., are conducting in response to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on evangelical churches. Conducted in July 2021, the study included a demographically representative sample of 1,017 evangelicals found via online access panels.

“Given the areas both companies specialize in, we wanted to make sure to explore topics that would be relevant to ministries, denominations, and churches,” Sellers said. “We had the belief that COVID and online church had the ability to significantly change the church landscape, and wanted to explore topics related to this. The more someone wishes their church could be different, the more they may cast around for different options, and online makes that especially easy today.”

Other studies in the series include “The Ripple Effect,” focusing on the impact of COVID on churches; “The Jewish Connection,” surveying evangelicals’ relationship with Israel, and “The Generosity Factor” on giving.

The study defines evangelical Protestants as those agreeing that the Bible is the highest authority for their beliefs, those who say it’s important to encourage non-Christians to accept Jesus as their Savior, those believing Jesus’ death on the cross is the only sacrifice for sin, and those who trust in Jesus along for salvation. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Catholics and the Orthodox were excluded.

The two companies have conducted research together or separately for several groups including the National Association of Evangelicals, the Evangelical Press Association, World Vision, Moody Global Ministries, Prison Fellowship, the Holocaust Remembrance Association and Focus on the Family.

The Congregational Scorecard and other resources are available at infinityconcepts.com and greymatterresearch.com.