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Survey: Those With 'The Answer' Weren't There to Answer

  • Jody Brown Agape Press
  • 2004 31 Jan
Survey: Those With 'The Answer' Weren't There to Answer

Have you ever experienced the frustration of wanting to do business with someone, but they never answer the phone or return your calls?  Apparently many churches in America need to take that lesson to heart and monitor their phones a little more closely.

During the month of December, a Christian research organization called 3,400 randomly selected Protestant churches across the country.  And they didn't call just once -- they called each church at least five times over a two-week period during normal business hours, making sure those calls were made at different times of the day.  The California-based Barna Research Group reports some surprising findings.

Simply put, most churches did not answer the phone, says Barna.  A human being could not be reached at more than half (55 percent) of the nation's churches -- and in roughly 20 percent of the cases, the phone went unanswered by either a person or an answering machine in each of the five separate attempts.  One out of every six churches (16 percent), Barna says, had an answering machine responding to all five attempts.

George Barna, director of the study, notes that while many churches go all-out in outreach ministries during the Christmas season -- offering seasonal musical events and special holiday services, and focusing efforts on attracting and welcoming visitors -- "nobody is covering the phones!"  The researcher contends that it is unlikely that "consumers" with busy schedules and questions about how "user-friendly" churches are will endure the frustration of trying to communicate with a church.

"If ministry is based on relationships and interaction, then many churches might find it easier to penetrate the community if they were more accessible to the people whoa re showing an interest in the church," he says.

And while there were some demographic differences noted in the study findings -- such as United Methodist churches being the most responsive to incoming calls, and the South being the toughest area of the country in which to make personal contact -- Barna urges churches to "capture the big picture" instead of focusing on the denominational or regional differences.

He maintains that with the ability of high-tech communications being able to put people in contact with one another immediately, "organizations that seemingly defy people to penetrate their fortress quickly become an after-thought in people's lives."


Barna Research Group (