While a slight majority of Americans agree pastors are good for the country, they fall well below teachers and medical doctors.
A recent poll by the Associated Press and the NORC at the University of Chicago found only 55 percent of Americans believe clergy members and religious leaders have a “somewhat positive impact” on society.
Just to give you a little perspective, 84 percent of the poll’s respondents said the same about teachers and 83 percent about medical doctors. And interestingly, 21 percent believe religious leaders have a “somewhat negative impact” on society, while 6 percent described their impact as “very negative.”
Eighty percent of Americans believe scientists impact society in a positive way and 75 percent said the same about military personnel.
Pastors surpassed only lawyers at 42 percent and business executives at 40 percent.
These numbers reveal why it’s critical for ministry leaders to be involved in their communities. For example, Faithwire spoke this week with a bi-vocational pastor in Malden, Missouri, who also teaches at a local middle school and stressed the importance of having a presence in his community.
“You form relationships with these kids,” Mark Pickard said, “and we can see the love of Christ in the community.”
Working outside the church, he explained, has “opened doors” for relationships that might not have been available in a traditional ministry setting.
As for the recent survey, perhaps most alarming were respondents’ concerns about integrity. While 50 percent agreed religious leaders are “extremely” caring, only 39 percent said they are equally honest.
“Adults who have a religion are more likely to describe clergy members as intelligent, honest, trustworthy, and caring, while those without a religion are more likely to describe clergy members as selfish,” the AP report stated.
One way of improving those impressions is by following the lead of ministers like Pickard, who take steps to actively engage their communities.