Protestant pastors and non-Christians in the U.S. view the role of a church differently, according to a report by Barna Group published on May 31.

Most pastors (84%) see a major part of the church’s role within their community as telling others about Jesus. Further, 75% see discipleship as a major part of a church’s role.

Comparatively, non-Christians see a church’s role as providing hands-on help to those in need (39%), followed by physically assisting those in need (38%), and offering counsel and care (38%).

While many pastors agree that offering physical assistance and hands-on help is important (64% and 57%, respectively), only 31% see offering counseling and care as being within the role of a church.

The report also found a noticeable decrease in pastors’ perceived effectiveness in a church’s ability to reach unchurched people as well as effectiveness at discipleship from 2015 to 2022.

In 2022, 76% of pastors felt like their church was somewhat or very effective at discipleship, an 11-point decrease from the 87% who felt this way in 2015.

In perceived effectiveness at evangelism, there has been a 24% decrease in pastors who felt their church was somewhat or very effective, going from 63% in 2015 to 39% in 2022.

The report also found that pastors who have seriously considered quitting in the past year are more likely to feel their church is ineffective at evangelism and discipleship. Around one-third (34%) felt their church was not effective or not very effective at discipleship, and 67% felt their church was not effective or not very effective at evangelism.

This perceived ineffectiveness may be tied to burnout. “It may be tough to tackle a pastor’s personal weariness without addressing these ministry concerns, or vice versa,” the report said.

The full report is available here. The margins of error for the data were: 3.1% for 2015, 4.8% for 2020 and 3.8% for 2022.

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