The Credibility Crisis of Today’s Pastors

Video in Leaders & Pastors • March 16, 2017

The good news: Most people don’t dislike pastors. The bad news: They just don’t really care about pastors either.

In Barna’s The State of Pastors report, produced in partnership with Pepperdine University, the reception of pastors was generally lukewarm. One-quarter of all U.S. adults (24%) holds a very positive opinion of pastors in general. Meanwhile, roughly the same proportion reports a negative opinion (28% “somewhat” + “very” negative). Similarly, one-quarter of the population has little regard for the pastoral influence in their city or neighborhood (23% “not very” + “not at all” influential), while one in five adults (19%) goes so far as to call pastors very influential. (Watch the video below to learn more about public perceptions of pastors.)

Yet, two-thirds of adults (66%) feel clergy is of at least some benefit to the public, and when asking people about a pastor with whom they have a personal connection, nearly two-thirds (64%) gives a very positive report. This leaves significant room for pastors to continue to make a positive difference, in spite of the seeming crisis of credibility plaguing their occupation.

So what does resilient leadership look like, even in a resistant climate? In the following video, recorded live at The State of Pastors event at Pepperdine University, Adam Edgerly (lead pastor, Newsong Los Angeles Covenant Church), Rebekah Layton (executive pastor, Cherry Hills Community Church) and Mark DeYmaz (directional leader, Mosaic Church) sit down to discuss how pastors can cultivate a credible influence, serve creatively and transform their communities.

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About the Research
This study was conducted on behalf of Pepperdine University. A total of 900 Protestant senior pastors were interviewed by telephone and online from April through December 2015. Pastors were recruited from publicly available church listings covering 90 percent of U.S. churches that have a physical address and a listed phone number or email address. Churches selected for inclusion were called up to five times at different times of the day to increase the probability of successful contact. The sample error for this study is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, at the 95% confidence level.

Interviews with U.S. adults included 1,025 web-based surveys conducted among a representative sample of adults over the age of 18 in each of the 50 United States. The survey was conducted in April and May of 2015. The sampling error for this study is plus or minus 3 percentage points, at the 95% confidence level. Minimal statistical weighting was used to calibrate the sample to known population percentages in relation to demographic variables.

About Barna
Barna research is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization under the umbrella of the Issachar Companies. Located in Ventura, California, Barna Group has been conducting and analyzing primary research to understand cultural trends related to values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors since 1984.

© Barna Group, 2017

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