Half of Protestant churchgoers say their church needs to be more ethnically diverse, according to new Lifeway Research data that also shows pastors are investing more time on the issue than they were six years ago.
The poll of 1,000 Protestant churchgoers found that 49 percent believe their church needs to “become more ethnically diverse,” with 18 percent strongly agreeing and 32 percent somewhat agreeing.
Churchgoers under 50 (63 percent) are more likely to agree with the statement than those ages 50-64 (46 percent) and 65-plus (33 percent). Among ethnic groups, African American churchgoers are the most likely to agree (60 percent).
Nearly 7 in 10 Protestant churchgoers (69 percent) say their church “is doing enough to be ethnically diverse.”
At the same time, Protestant pastors say they are putting forth more effort on the issue than they were in 2016.
A poll of 1,000 Protestant pastors found that 63 percent say they have discussed the issue of racial reconciliation with church leadership in the past three months compared to 51 percent who answered that way in 2016. Pastors also are more likely to say in the past three months, they have met regularly with pastors of other ethnicities (46 percent today, 40 percent in 2016), spent time socializing with neighbors of other ethnicities (70 percent today, 57 percent in 2016) and “invested church funds in changing local economic inequalities (44 percent today, 31 percent in 2016).
“When a church is largely one ethnicity, making progress toward ethnic diversity is not easy. Yet that doesn’t mean many of these churches are not trying,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research.
The surveys indicate progress, he added.
“It’s encouraging to see pastors increasingly engaged in many activities that foster racial reconciliation,” McConnell said. “Perhaps the most surprising is the growth in the number of churches engaged financially in righting economic inequalities.”
Pastors are as likely to say they have preached on racial reconciliation in the past three months than they were in 2016 (44 percent today, 45 percent in 2016). But pastors are less likely to say they have led times of corporate prayer for racial reconciliation in the past three months (44 percent today, 53 percent in 2016).
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Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.