Report says Outreach Ministry not of interest to pastors

February 09, 2007

Approximately one-third of senior pastors in Methodist denominations lack an interest in doing more community outreach than is already happening with their congregation. Nevertheless, according to a study conducted by Ellison Research, clergy in other Protestant denominational families have even less interest, with 39% not wanting to expand community outreach.


The primary reasons given for this lack of interest include a lack of interest by the congregation (20% Methodists, 13% all) and it not being a major priority (9% Methodists, 10% all).


In contrast, the greatest challenges to expanding community outreach may not be directly related to interest. Rather, lack of sufficient volunteers and staff were the top barriers cited. The research also showed that Methodist denominations have greater challenges due to rural location and an older membership as compared with other Protestant denominations.


The main outreach efforts offered include food programs and vacation Bible school, and are strongest in mainline churches.


Vacation Bible school is also cited as the top evangelism activity, conducted by 79% of Methodist churches within the 12 months prior to the survey. Events such as block parties and a fall festival also often occur (70% Methodists, 56% all). Methodists are less likely to use literature, such as tracts or magazines, to engage in evangelism (46% Methodists, 59% all). Ron Sellers, president of Ellison Research, noted that even though pastors named lack of volunteers and staff as reason for not increasing outreach efforts, pastors of both large and small churches named these limitations. Pastors of larger churches, though, are more likely to mention a lack of time (57% of those with 200 or more in the congregation, 31% of those with less than 100).