Pastors often find church roadmaps quite confusing

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)—Most pastors of small Baptist churches see what God is calling their congregations to be and do and have laid the groundwork for accomplishing the mission, but their efforts are frustrated by “turf” battles and a failure to clarify and evaluate plans, according to a new study by LifeWay Research.

Findings of the study, published in Facts & Trends, a publication of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, suggest pastors could see their small congregations make progress by evaluating church ministries, organizing to reach their goals and planning for the future.

Poor organization 

“The effectiveness of local-church ministry often is jeopardized by poor organization,” said Scott McConnell, associate director of LifeWay Research. “Understanding God’s calling and the context of the church is important, but leadership requires knowing where you are, knowing where you need to go and knowing how to get there. Most small-church pastors actively pursue the first two, but many struggle with the third.”

The study entailed an online survey of 350 pastors of congregations averaging fewer than 100 in primary worship attendance. It found, among other things, that 67 percent of small-church pastors are frustrated with how slowly progress is made at their church.

The inertia, however, isn’t for lack of trying. According to the study:

• Most pastors of small churches have assessed their church’s cultural context. Three-fourths have studied their communities. Ninety percent have examined trends in their congregation. Seventy-one percent say they try to be actively involved in their community.

• Most pastors of small churches see what God is calling their church to be and do. Ninety-four percent say they clearly see the needs, hurts and problems God is calling their church to address. Eight out of 10 have shared with the congregation a clear, compelling picture of what God is calling their church to look like several years from now.

The obstacles to missional progress, however, are familiar to every pastor. While two-thirds of the pastors surveyed indicated their church makes regular changes to improve their effectiveness, 49 percent said lay leaders in the congregation often resist change to protect their area of responsibility. One-third of them said their church had experienced disruptive conflict in the past year.

• Many pastors of small churches candidly admitted they do not know how to lead their church where they need to go, McConnell reported.

Only 29 percent of small-church pastors strongly agreed that they have a clear plan to accomplish the things God has called their church to do. Forty-four percent agreed, strongly or somewhat strongly, they often don’t understand why things they try don’t work. Thirty percent agreed they are confused about where they should invest their own time and effort.

The problem is compounded by the fact many churches fail to plan or even evaluate their current activities, the survey revealed. Although 70 percent of the pastors said the allocation of their church budget adequately funds current objectives, 40 percent agreed their church rarely has time to step back and plan appropriately.

While more than half of pastors—57 percent—have written a vision or mission statement adopted by their church, two-thirds rarely change who is responsible for certain work or responsibilities. Leadership in fewer than six in 10 churches regularly evaluates methods and results of events and programs.

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