A poll involving interviews with 614 senior pastors of Protestant churches throughout the U.S. found that church leaders are most concerned with assessing their vision and mission in order to stay relevant in today's culture.
The survey, conducted by the California-based Barna Group, asked pastors how they plan to improve their churches in the coming year. Out of the 12 choices given, assessing their church's vision and mission was the top scorer, with 58 percent of respondents describing it as a definite priority. Assessing their church's reputation in the community (38 percent) and measuring the demographic and spiritual needs of their community (31 percent) where the other two top choices.
At the bottom end of the table, working with an organization to help increase giving and hiring a search firm to help with hiring the right people only scored six and two percent respectively, suggesting that churches are more willing to concentrate on their own resources and abilities than search for outside help.
One respondent, the Rev. Molly Simpson from the Church of the Resurrection from Leawood, Kans., shared with the Kansas City Star her surprise that "Technology and digital media improvements" scored so low, at only 18 percent. She expressed that churches are going to need to focus on this area more and more as society and especially youths continue submerging themselves into various digital media outlets.
"The rest don't matter if you don't have vision and mission," she said, regarding the top choice for pastors. "We have to change our thinking before we change our behavior. You have to ask why we are doing what we're doing."
"Most pastors are open to changing their ministries, yet many of them are struggling with the foundational questions of mission and vision," added David Kinnaman, the director of the Barna Group study.
"In other words, they want a clear direction to pursue, not necessarily just more ministry resources, like facilities, equipment, technology or ministry tools."
Regarding the concern pastors seemed to express about their reputation in the community, Kinnaman offered: "In an era of skepticism toward the institutional church, these leaders seem to recognize that the most effective churches are those that are aware of needs and active in their communities."
Another aspect of the study focused on the attitudes of the churches reflective of their size. Among churches with fewer than 100 members, most of the selected priorities were of equal importance to those of larger church leaders. The differences pointed out that small church pastors were less inclined to want community demographics, less focused on safety and security issues, less likely to change budgeting, and less inclined to invest in technology.