Slightly more than half of U.S. Christian clergy surveyed by The Barna Group say their own congregations should be doing more to address global poverty and health.
The survey of 1,024 Protestant and Catholic clergy found that almost two-thirds of them said U.S. churches in general should increase those efforts. But while 57 percent said their own congregation should be doing more, 43 percent said they believed they were doing enough.
“The church is really split when it comes to their interest in dealing with international poverty,” said David Kinnaman, president of The Barna Group, which conducted the research for the ONE Campaign, a secular advocacy organization that has started a ONE Sabbath effort to engage religious congregations.
While the vast majority of clergy (90 percent) say political leaders should talk about how the country can better address international poverty and health matters, the typical Christian leader may only preach about poverty issues once a year.
“Usually poverty is something that’s mentioned once or twice a year,” said Kinnaman, who added that African American and mainline Protestant and Catholic churches tend to bring up such issues more often. “It doesn’t really become a main theme for many congregations as they talk about the kinds of things they’re trying to activate people in their church to do.”
The survey was conducted in October and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.
Mark Brinkmoeller, national coordinator of ONE Sabbath, said the campaign is offering online resources to congregations—from sermon and hymn suggestions to materials mosques can use during Ramadan and Hindu scriptures that might be used to influence service projects. The emphasis is timed to the first 100 days of the administration of President Barack Obama and the new U.S. Congress.
“It’s a bit of an on-ramp for congregations,” Brinkmoeller said in a news teleconference in December.
Leaders from the Jewish, Muslim, and Hindu communities who support the ONE Sabbath effort said keeping things simple is crucial for congregational involvement. They cited examples of the Nothing but Nets Campaign, recently endorsed by the Union for Reform Judaism, where $10 can save a life with a malaria-preventing net over a person’s bed.