Faith leaders are the most trusted source on global poverty

A new study shows that pastors and faith leaders don't realize the huge impact they can have on the world. Are pastors passing up opportunities to change the world?
  • By: Compassion Canada
Two smiling children in Tanzania hold up a brown and yellow Bible.

Whom do you look to when seeking information about global poverty?

According to a new report by Barna Group, in partnership with Compassion International, there is one source above all others that Christians trust regarding information on global poverty: Their faith leaders.

Everyone trusts pastors…except for pastors themselves!

The graph below reveals the breakdown (from highest to lowest) of whom practicing Christians value as trusted sources on the topic of global poverty.

A graph depicting practicing Christians' level of trust of various groups on their expertise on poverty.

Almost all practicing Christians (94 per cent) probably or definitely value their pastors’ thoughts about global poverty. Christians are not alone in their trust. Among all U.S. adults Barna polled, Christian or otherwise, pastors are still the most trusted source—tied only with those who have worked or lived in a community experiencing poverty—with 88 per cent responding that they probably or definitely trust them.

But while the public may put their trust in pastors, pastors themselves are uncertain regarding the strength of their voice on the topic. Out of the pastors who participated in the study, a majority (58 per cent) believe they have minor to no influence on the cause of global poverty.

A graph depicting pastors' sense of influence on various causes.

Pastors and faith leaders, here is what you need to know: People are looking to you to lead the fight against global poverty.

It’s clear that people are seeking leadership, knowledge and action from the Church. This is exciting—and expected. But in can also be overwhelming! As a faith leader, we want you to be prepared, inspired and equipped to lead your church responding to global poverty.

Expect to be seen as an expert

We believe that the Church exists to share Jesus’ good news to the poor in a holistic demonstration and proclamation of the gospel. From the Early Church until now, the Church has a long history of being on the frontlines of poverty alleviation efforts. So it’s no surprise that people are looking to pastors and faith leaders for information about global poverty and how to respond.

But being seen as an expert is no small thing—we need to steward that platform well.

The foundation of poverty engagement begins with awareness—with what they hear from their trusted source. On an issue as complex as poverty, levels and types of engagement are inevitably linked to the quality of the information people receive.

A graph depicting peoples' desired type of information about poverty.

As the graph above demonstrates, when actively seeking information on poverty, people start with looking for basic information (71 per cent). More than half (53 per cent) want to know ideas for action, and 46 per cent are looking for compelling stories of success. What kind of information can you present to your congregation?

Get inspired, so that you can inspire

It can be easy to get discouraged when thinking about poverty alleviation. But there is good news about global poverty (see our first post for more on this)—and the study shows that if people knew it, they would do more to fight poverty.

A graph shows that if people knew ending global poverty was possible, they would do more.

So, read and share inspiring stories about how the Church is responding to poverty around the world. Get to know the real numbers about poverty and share them with your congregation.

Hope is a powerful asset in the fight against poverty!

Resources to equip you

The influence of the Church is why we are so passionate about equipping pastors and faith leaders to lead their congregations in understanding and responding to poverty.

We’ve created several resources for you and your congregation to use for personal study, small groups, and youth, children and family ministries. They are designed to help Christians understand poverty from a biblical perspective and respond in the Christ-like ways.

We would love to connect with you about Compassion church partnership. Our heart is to equip your church to engage in poverty alleviation and missions in strategic ways that fit with your church’s heart and ethos, so that you don’t have to feel overwhelmed or alone in your response.

Take heart!

Roxanne Stone, editor in chief for Barna Group, says:

“Local churches are already doing many things right in discipling Christians toward compassion for the poor. But there is more to do: Fighting poverty both material and spiritual—will always be the mission of the Church.”

We’ve made incredible progress in the fight against poverty, and we can look forward with optimism.

We hope you are encouraged as a faith leader to know that you have incredible influence and opportunity to lead people in responding to global poverty.

How will you use it?

We would love to share the free executive summary of this study with you! Email us to request your copy.

Email Our Church Team

You can also connect with our church partnership team to explore what partnership with Compassion could look like for your congregation. 

Purchase the full report of The Good News About Global Poverty: What Americans Believe About the World’s Poor—and What Churches Can Do to Help directly from Barna Group.