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Lifeway’s Biden Economy Impact Data Not Determinative

Many churches rely on data from either Barna or Lifeway, which is a Southern Baptist entity. However, when the economy is as bad as it currently is, one would think a clear reflection exists in the data. Baptist Press, who was presumably first to this story because of the SBC ties, ran the headline about how “half of pastors are saying that the economy is hurting their church.” Christian Post was far more vague. However, neither of this coverage captures how feeble this data really is. Lifeway published a study on the “Pastors’ Views on Economic Impact” which was a survey of American Protestant pastors. Yet one chart completely undermines any of the data in this study.

The pastors Lifeway has been surveying for the last decade have perhaps been melodramatic in their assessment. The economy was not nearly as bad in 2016 as it is now, yet the percentage of pastors who say that the economy is, very or somewhat, negatively impacting their church is the exact same, at 51%.

This is a head scratching finding. With rapid inflation, one would think that churches would be enduring harder times, yet this is not nearly the case as this data shows. It would appear that the Obama era was far more dire economically than the current regency. 2009-2016 all have much higher negative perceptions.

It’s hard to account for this data. Have churches made budget cuts resulting in leaner operations? Even so, it seems weird for pastors not to view this as a negative economic impact. Or is the pastorate at a complete disconnect with the laity and the economic hardships they are facing. It’s also worth wondering how “your church” is defined: as the congregation or organization. Assuming there was room for interpretation, a disconnect seems more likely. Other questions in the survey focused on giving.

Still giving is shown to be more constant in this study which may be the reason, but compared to years past and with current inflation and interest rates, these findings are dubious.

Additionally, this data does not screen for orthodoxy which also inhibits its usefulness.

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2 Responses

  1. You’d have to be living under a rock not to think your congregation isn’t more negatively effected economically. I hope it is a disconnect in the question. Wow

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