What’s on the heart of America’s pastors? What are their concerns, fears, worries and aspirations for their churches?
The research found that of all pastoral concerns, the top—at 51%—was reaching a younger audience.
APN President Sam Rohrer says this revealing response is likely due to several reasons.
“It’s not surprising that pastors are most concerned about reaching the young generation,” Rohrer said. “From a very practical standpoint, they are the future of the church. They will be making business, education and political decisions for years to come. Secondly, additional Barna research shows that the number of millennials who hold a biblical worldview is miniscule, at just 4%. Therefore, there’s an urgency to bring this young generation back into the church’s fold and to equip them with the tools needed to know their own faith and share it with others. And third, pastors have the serious task of ministering to young adults who are raising children of their own in a very complex culture. As these young families grow, a biblical worldview and sound faith is of utmost importance.”
For decades, Barna has conducted research specifically on U.S. church leaders, uncovering what they and others believe about their role in the church, as well as shedding light on their concerns and aspirations for both the local church and the church in the U.S.
The recent findings are part of Barna’s State of the Church 2020 project, which discovered the following insights when presented with a list of possible challenges facing their church today:
- Half of Protestant pastors noted that “reaching a younger audience” (51%) is a major issue for their ministry. Just over one-third of pastors (34%) marks this statement as a top three concern for their church, with 12% noting it as the top concern.
- Half of pastors also agree that “declining or inconsistent outreach and evangelism” is a major issue facing their local church (50%). Of all the pastors who affirm this statement, 2 in 5 (40%) say it falls within their top three concerns, with 14% agreeing it is their largest concern.
- “Low spiritual maturity among churchgoers” (27% in 2017 vs. 8% in 1992) has been an increasing pain point for pastors over the years. Meanwhile, the practice of evangelism has fallen out of favor even with young adults who are practicing Christians.
- Overall, other top concerns include “declining or inconsistent volunteering” (36%), “stagnating spiritual growth” (34%), “declining attendance” (33%), “biblical illiteracy” (29%), “declining or unpredictable giving patterns” (28%), “lack of leadership training and development” (23%), “not reflecting the demographic of the community” (21%) and “divisions within the church” (12%).