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Questionnaire provides profile of SBC pastors

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Few Southern Baptists would be surprised to learn that most of their denomination’s pastors are Caucasian men between 36 and 50 years of age, married and with children living at home.
But additional information gleaned from 1,400 responses to a recently completed random survey by the Baptist Sunday School Board provides a multidimensional view of pastors and presents insights that may result in better-focused denominational resources.
Data from the eight-part questionnaire will be used by the board’s church leadership services division to help meet pastors’ personal and professional development needs, according to Mike Miller, division director, and Don Mathis, director of the board’s pastor-staff leadership department that administered the project.
“While our research approach was random, rather than scientific, we believe the information it provides supports our awareness of pastors’ lives on many levels and gives us additional insight into their emerging needs,” Miller said.
Geographic spread of responses included 39 states from all major continental U.S. regions, as well as Hawaii and Alaska. Almost 39 percent of churches represented are rural, 25 percent urban and almost 36 percent suburban.
Among responses signaling changing lifestyles among pastors’ families are that more than half indicated they own their own homes and their wives are also employed.
In the area of personal and professional growth, almost 80 percent of the pastors reported having a personal devotional time from four to seven days a week, while others indicated one to three days a week.
Just over 89 percent said they reserve time in their schedules each week for family activities, and 55 percent said they engage in daily or weekly exercise programs. Only 39 percent participate in a weekly or monthly recreation program. Almost one-third of survey participants said they do not have a day off other than Saturday.
Among spiritual disciplines they consistently practice to strengthen their personal Christian walk, pastors cited prayer and daily Bible study as the most used. “Journaling” was mentioned as a distant third most-used discipline.
More than 30 percent of respondents said they have sought guidance from a trained counselor, and if they needed guidance, 53 percent indicated they would go to another pastor for help. Approximately 28 percent said they would go to a licensed counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist.
Slightly more than 73 percent reported they do something to protect themselves from career burnout. Most-often listed were leisure-hobby activities and exercise and diet. Six percent indicated they do nothing to protect themselves from burnout.
On a related topic, 36 percent said they read and listen to tapes to stay fresh in ministry. More than 20 percent did not respond to the subject of staying fresh in ministry.
Almost 54 percent of the pastors reported their staff members and their wives are the most influential persons in their lives. Laymen were cited as the next most influential group. A variety of prominent persons were cited by fewer respondents. In the specific area of personal growth, the pastor’s wife ranked first in influence.
Books, magazines and authors that pastors regard as most important to their ministerial growth and personal growth provided a wide range of responses, with no particular publication or person emerging as a unanimous influencer. Materials from the Sunday School Board as well as literature from other sources were cited. Likewise both Southern Baptist personalities as well as notable speakers and writers from other evangelical denominations were mentioned.
In rating the difficulty of ministry for themselves, their wives and their children, the level of difficulty generally was higher for family members than for pastors themselves.
In the area of pastoral compensation, slightly more than 50 percent reported an annual compensation package between $30,000 and $49,000. Another 25 percent indicated they receive a package of more than $50,000. At the lowest end, fewer than 3 percent indicated they earn less than $10,000 annually. More than 65 percent defined their compensation as “salary and housing with additional benefits,” with another 30 percent indicating the church gives them freedom to determine the breakdown of their benefits. Fewer than 3 percent indicated they receive no benefits beyond salary and housing.
In a multiple-response question, pastors indicated the kinds of benefits included. Most often mentioned were automobile expenses or allowance, individual health insurance, individual dental insurance, computer services allowance, continuing education and conference budgets.
Almost 70 percent of pastors indicated they feel their financial compensation is equitable considering their experience, training and the community they serve. The remaining 30 percent who did not feel equitably compensated cited inequity compared to churches of comparable size more than other factors, including awareness that the church is unable to pay more and high cost of living in their locale.
Of those responding, 80 percent had received a raise in pay during the previous 24 months, and of that group 41 percent indicated the raise did not cover the increase in cost of living. Merit increases were not included for 62 percent of pastors who received a raise, and only 24 percent indicated difficult circumstances in the community or church economy influenced the lack of a raise or an adequate raise. Only 13 percent indicated they felt penalized by an antagonist or a power group in the church.
Recognition of special occasions by the church focused primarily on a Christmas gift, reported by almost 75 percent of survey participants. Other occasions listed were the pastor’s anniversary at the church (34 percent), pastor’s birthday (27 percent) and Pastor Appreciation Day (18 percent).
Vacation days provided pastors, for more than 43 percent of respondents, ranged from 11 to 15 days. Another 27 percent indicated they are entitled to between 16 and 25 days. In contrast, pastors were asked how many vacation days they had taken in the previous 12 months. Most pastors reported taking 10 or fewer days, with the next-largest group of responses in the 11- to 15-day category. One-half the number of pastors who indicated they were entitled to 16 to 25 days reported taking that number of actual vacation days.
Rewards, however, seem to come more from sources other than from salary and benefits. Pastors cited their greatest joys in ministry as witnessing and seeing people saved, changed lives and growth, along with preaching.
Data from the survey will be used in a variety of ways, Miller said, including ministry and materials.
Mathis agreed that the resources of LeaderCare, a development process/network designed to enhance and improve the personal and professional leadership of pastors and staff persons, will be measured against the personal needs evident in survey results.
It provides pastors “the opportunity to develop a personal enrichment and development plan, a listening ministry and encouraging advice,” Mathis said. “Its objectives are for pastors and staff leaders to discern and follow the call of God, grow in Christlike character, discern and use their God-given competencies and to lead lives that are balanced physically, spiritually, socially and emotionally.”

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  • Charles Willis