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Research to aid ‘GPS’ strategy

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–In advance support of the “God’s Plan for Sharing” evangelistic campaign set to roll out in 2010, the North American Mission Board is collaborating with LifeWay Research to research the most effective methods for sharing Christ with the people of North America.

A minimum of 15,000 people across the United States will be polled on how they prefer to receive spiritually related messages — whether by direct mail, TV, radio, Internet websites, e-mail, personal contact, newspaper or magazine advertising, billboards, door-to-door, etc.

Because of the survey’s large sample, data will be available across many demographics — for instance, the different preferences of those living in the United States or Canada; different regions of the U.S.; Anglos, African Americans or Hispanics; Christians and non-believers; or across various denominations.

“People see national ad campaigns from the Mormons and the Methodists and they wonder about their effectiveness since the Mormon Church is growing and the Methodists are declining,” said Ed Stetzer, director of LifeWay Research and LifeWay’s missiologist-in-residence, based in Nashville, Tenn.

In addition to polling people about their openness to outreach by various methodologies, Stetzer said the research also will ask respondents if it makes a difference who or what denomination the spiritual message is from. Also, are Americans more open to spiritual contacts or messages during a certain time of the year or after key national events?

When NAMB launches the multi-year GPS evangelistic campaign with five state pilots in 2009, the data gleaned from the research will maximize the effectiveness for undergirding media placement efforts in those state pilots. These states are Texas, South Dakota, Pennsylvania, California and Georgia.

“This research demonstrates that GPS is a high priority for NAMB,” said Brandon Pickett, communications team leader for the Alpharetta, Ga.-based mission board. “The data will be shared with the state executives and associations as part of GPS. We hope to assist them as they reach out to their local communities by 2020.

“But we’re also trying to be good stewards with God’s money,” Pickett said. “We’re taking our time to learn about our audience. We’re taking our time before we spend. We want to make sure we’re going to get the best return for our investment.”

Pickett said he knows Southern Baptists are asking how much money will be spent for a GPS media campaign starting in 2010.

“My answer is to wait and ask us that question after we get the results back from the research. We can’t know how much we need to spend and where until after the research is done,” Pickett said. Research results are expected to be released by the end of the first quarter of 2009.

Commenting on the breadth and depth of the research, Pickete said the large sample of 15,000 adults will be broken down by age, race/ethnicity, gender, region (at least 20 states), income, education and “born-again” status.

In addition, respondents will be assigned to “MOSAIC” lifestyle groupings by attaching lifestyle segments to postal zip codes. The large sample will include 12 MOSAIC groups -– such as the proverbial “Blue-collar Backbone” and “Metro Fringe” –- and will include lifestyle factors such as purchase patterns, behaviors and media usage to help target the most effective media to use for GPS.

“We already know what people read and watch in certain markets,” Pickett said. “We already know how to market in broad terms. But this research will drill deeper to show us how a prototypical person, like a soccer mom, receives spiritual messages. Does she prefer a personal one-on-one contact, TV or the Internet?”

God’s Plan for Sharing was introduced at last summer’s Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Indianapolis. Unlike earlier SBC evangelistic campaigns, GPS is not a one-year or five-year evangelism emphasis but an initiative slated to run until 2020.

Calling it a grass-roots rather than a top-down effort, NAMB President Geoff Hammond recently said that although GPS is still in the ramp-up stage by NAMB, the state conventions and associations, NAMB already has invested more than $500,000 on GPS in 2008. Another $1 million is planned for all of the GPS campaign in 2009. He said the money has been invested toward the ramp-up, promotion, media, resources (in four languages) and coordination.

“Our goal for GPS is nothing less than every believer sharing and every person hearing by 2020,” Hammond said.
Mickey Noah is a writer for the North American Mission Board. For more information on the “God’s Plan for Sharing” evangelistic initiative, visit www.nei2020.com.

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  • Mickey Noah