Survey weighs value of Bapt. associations

by Roger Alford/Kentucky Today, posted Tuesday, August 01, 2017 (2 months ago)

PIKEVILLE, Ky. (BP) -- Most church leaders believe their financial contributions to local Baptist associations are "a good kingdom investment" while others are struggling to see their relevancy, according to findings from a national survey released Monday (July 31).

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"When asked to describe the most exciting aspect of their local Baptist association, the most popular answer among church leaders was 'nothing,'" said Jason Lowe, a Kentucky director of missions who led the study that looked into attitudes about the work of local Baptist associations.

Lowe, who serves the Pike Association of Southern Baptists in eastern Kentucky, said the findings weren't all doom and gloom.

"The most encouraging finding is that there is hope among church leaders that associations can be relevant once again," he said.

Lowe said in a 208-page report that some church leaders are questioning whether local Baptist associations are still vital or even relevant.

"I personally believe that Baptist associations can still be a relevant ministry partner to the local church," Lowe said. "However, I recognize that not everyone shares that opinion."

The survey, which allowed respondents to remain anonymous, was conducted in April to gain a better understanding of how Southern Baptist church leaders view the effectiveness of the associations. The survey consisted of two sets of questions for church leaders and association leaders.

Over the course of a two-week period, 448 responded to the survey. Of those, 159 were senior pastors and 116 were directors of missions. The remainder were largely church staff members, lay members, denominational or agency staff members, seminary students and church planters.

Lowe said perhaps the most significant finding was the perceived lack of value in associations.

"Only 65.6 percent of church leaders think that their local Baptist association is a strategic partner in helping their church to fulfill the Great Commission, meaning that nearly 1 out of every 3 church leaders do not think so," according to the report. "Only 58.5 percent of church leaders think that their church would be negatively affected if their local Baptist association ceased to exist."

However, 73.8 percent of church leaders think that their local Baptist association is a good kingdom investment of their church's financial resources.

Lowe said the churches that are most involved in the work of local Baptist associations and are most familiar with their mission and work are the most excited about their work. More than 90 percent of church leaders who are extremely involved in the work of the associations believed they were strategic partners in fulfilling the Great Commission.

Ninety percent of church leaders extremely involved in the work of the local associations said they would be negatively affected if their local Baptist associations ceased to exist.

And more than 90 percent of church leaders most involved in the work of local associations said they believed contributing financially was good kingdom investment.

"The research showed that most church leaders do believe that associations can have a future," Lowe said. "That is if significant changes are made."

Church leaders said they'd be motivated to increase their financial support for local Baptist associations if they could demonstrate their relevance with a clear vision, strategy.

For more information on the survey, go to https://jasonalowe.com/2017/07/30/2017-baptist-associations-survey-results/.

Roger Alford is editor of Kentucky Today, www.kentuckytoday.com, where this article first appeared. Kentucky Today is a news resource of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.
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