Wednesday, July 24, 2024
Wednesday, July 24, 2024
HomeAll The NewsSummary of Associational Involvement Survey

Summary of Associational Involvement Survey

To follow up on the special “Why Do We Associate?” insert in the April 19 issue, we shared an Associational Involvement Survey with pastors to see if we could get some feedback on where we stand and how to improve and encourage more involvement. We had 55 pastors complete the survey, and I want to share a summary of the results with you.

While we did not ask for names, we did use some demographic information to help understand the responses we received — 55% of those who responded were full-time pastors, 40% were part-time or bi-vocational pastors and 5% were retired from pastoring. The size of the church pastored also varied, with 53% averaging less than 50 on Sunday morning.

We asked about the involvement of the pastor personally, and also the church, in the associational work. This is where I noticed something that confirms what I have seen in the ministry of the Trumpet since I have been here. Where 1 is not involved and 5 is highly involved, most pastors (64%) rated their church’s involvement at a 3 or 4, while most pastors (60%) rated themselves at a 4 or 5. This means that while the pastor may be involved in the associated work, their church is not involved at the same level.

We also asked how the pastors rated their local association in serving member churches effectively. Only 16% said their local association was effective (rated 4 & 5) in serving member churches, 56% rated their local association very low (rated 1 & 2) in their effectiveness of serving member churches and another 27% rated them at the mid-level of 3 in effectiveness.

We followed up on these questions and asked for things that could be done on each level — local, state and national — to encourage more participation. Here is a summary of the suggestions about each level:

• Local Associations — Most survey participants expressed a desire for better connection and fellowship between churches and their members, not just the pastors. Others also suggested that being contacted by someone in the local association for support and mentoring would be important. Another suggestion was to have a better vision for what can be accomplished together as an association and have clear communication about those goals. One proposal that would be beneficial is to have an associational ambassador who is responsible for reaching out to the churches and pastors in the association.

• State Associations — Many survey participants suggested that more awareness of what is happening with State Mission projects would help. It was also recommended that better communication overall, especially about how to get involved, would be helpful by not assuming people know about all ministries. Contact with churches and pastors throughout the year would also encourage more involvement. Providing clearly stated goals for the association would help. Producing conferences and resources to equip churches and leaders was also suggested.

• National Associations — On the national level, it seems that many feel like they do not have a voice in decisions that are made because everything is already decided before they arrive at the meeting, and the national meeting seems to be a formality. It was suggested that leaders ensure accountability to the churches and be careful not to move away from accountability in favor of a “corporate” structure. An investment in helping/advising churches for spiritual growth and outreach in their communities was suggested, along with more visits by department directors or missionaries in the churches. Another suggestion was to provide some resources for pastors via a website that includes history, doctrinal studies, an archive of Sunday School publications, books and research for some issues they may deal with in their ministry, such as Calvinism, Rapture, Baptist History, et al., Associations vs. Convention, Bible versions/translations and qualifications for pastors, missionaries and leaders.

In all levels of the associated work, we need to understand that most of the churches in our association are rural churches with bivocational pastors who have difficulty attending meetings due to work schedules and the length of the meetings. There were many suggestions about prioritizing the business that needs to be taken care of since that is why they are sent. Still, sharing times of preaching and worship was also essential. Survey participants also suggested some training and networking events (i.e., something like the Leadership Cruise was mentioned) at every level would help build close relationships with people serving in similar roles.

This summary of the survey results was shared at every local association meeting this year because I believe the way we revitalize involvement in our association starts at the local church/local association level. If pastors and churches realize the importance of getting involved with their local associations, they should be involved in both the state and national associations.

Our goal through this year’s Associational Involvement Initiative is to encourage more conversations and help remind all of us why it is vital for every church to be active in our associational work. Do you have some ideas that have worked for your church or association? Do you have a response to this summary of survey results? Please keep the conversation going so we can continue to work together through the Baptist Missionary Association to bring honor and glory to God.