Report 3: Canadian Evangelicals and Mission Priorities
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This report is based on ground-breaking, comprehensive, national research on how Canadian Evangelicals engage with “mission” or “missions,” as part of the Canadian Evangelical Missions Engagement Study series. With over 3,400 Canadians polled and qualitative interviews with 56 Evangelicals, this series of reports provides a snapshot of how and why Canadian Evangelicals engage with missions, and forms a baseline for future study.
Third in the series, Canadian Evangelicals and Mission Priorities looks at local church priorities in mission activities and mission support, as demonstrated in church budgets and spending. This report also examines the influences and factors in making decisions about supporting missions.
One key trend throughout the report is that lay people who attend religious services and read the Bible frequently were more aware and engaged with long-term career missions (LTCM). Involvement in the life of a local church was associated with greater knowledge and investment in missions.
- Pastors reported their congregations spent 13.5% of their church budgets on missions, on average, disregarding “don’t know” responses.
- The majority of church missions budgets include long-term, career (LTC) missionaries (80%) and at least one domestic activity (75%). Churches that spend on missions almost always spend on both domestic missions and LTC missionaries.
- Frequent church attenders and lay people who are in a leadership position in their church are more aware of missions.
- Only 16% of those in a local church leadership position could not provide an estimate of the number of LTC missionaries supported by their local church compared to 35% of those without a leadership position.
- Twenty-four percent of lay people who attended religious services weekly did not know how many LTC missionaries their local church supported compared to 60% of those who attended less often than monthly.
- A significant percentage of lay people (41%) personally support LTC missionaries with their finances. Older Evangelicals are more likely to personally support LTC missionaries, with half (52%) of Silent generation lay respondents saying they personally financially support LTC missionaries compared to 32% of those in Gen-Y.
- Personal financial support for LTC missionaries increases with frequency of service attendance and frequency of Bible reading.
- Half (49%) of weekly service attenders personally financially support LTC missionaries, compared to 38% of those who attended just 2-3 times a month, 22% of those who attended once a month or so, and 18% of those who attended once a month or a few times a year.
- More than half (53%) of lay respondents who read the Bible at least a few times a week said they financially support LTC missionaries, compared to just 19% of those who read seldom and 6% of those who never read.
How Decisions Are Made
- The majority of both pastors and lay people thought that deliberative bodies (missions committees, church boards, or congregations at annual meetings) were the most influential for missions funding decisions in their local congregation.
- Nearly three-fifths of pastors (58%) said their congregation prefers to support LTC missionaries through their denominational agencies.
- Just under half (45%) of pastors agreed “Our local church only supports missionaries and mission projects that further our local church’s vision and mission.”
- The majority of pastors (66%) said their congregation would not support a mission project unless its leadership saw significant interest and initiative from its own people.
- The majority (67%) of lay people needed to be convinced administration fees related to ministry effectiveness before they personally financially supported missionaries, and 62% of pastors said the same for their church and its support for missionaries.
- Small churches were more likely than very large churches to prefer time-limited mission commitments over ongoing ones.
Local Church Priorities
- According to pastors, churches’ top three missions priorities, selected from a list of options, were missions to the “unreached,” poverty relief and working with national churches. The lowest three priorities, beginning with the lowest, were environmental concerns, interreligious dialogue and Bible translation.
- Although the top priority was missions to the “unreached,” evangelizing the Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist world was a low priority.
- Despite the emphasis on the Bible and on Bible translation as a defining mark of Evangelicalism, pastors said that Bible translation was, on average, a low priority for their congregations.
- Three-fifths of pastors (59%) said their congregations intentionally had ministries to those in their local communities who were ethnically, culturally or religiously different than their congregation. Just over half (54%) of pastors from small congregations reported local cross-cultural ministries compared to 93% of very large congregations.
- About half of lay respondents (49%) agreed “If finances were tight, I would support our local church reducing our missions budget so we can pay our pastors.” Frequent service attenders and Bible readers were less likely to support a missions budget cut if finances were tight.
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