Americans seem to be becoming more distrustful of religion. In fact, Gallup has watched the public’s trust in clergy decline for years, with just 42 percent of Americans last year saying the clergy had “very high” or “high” honesty and ethical standards — the lowest rating they’ve received since Gallup first asked that question in 1977.
However, there seems to be at least one topic in which Americans feel they can still trust pastors and faith leaders: global poverty.
Recently released research from Barna shows 88 percent of Americans say they would trust their pastor or faith leader’s opinion on global poverty, with 39 percent saying they would definitely trust their pastor or faith leader and 49 percent saying they probably would.
Among practicing Christians, trust of pastors seems to be even higher, with 92 percent of practicing Christians saying they would trust their pastor or church leader on the issue of worldwide poverty.
Of this group, 54 percent said they would definitely trust their pastor or faith leader and 40 percent said they probably would.
These findings are part of a larger report Barna recently released in partnership with Compassion International titled “The Good News About Global Poverty.”
Both organizations say these particular findings present churches with unique opportunities.
“Pastors have incredible potential to lead the charge and position the U.S. Church as a powerful force in anti-poverty endeavors—whether they like it or not,” a release from Barna says.
These findings could also be leveraged as a way for churches to engage non-believers who are passionate about these issues, according to a blog post on Compassion International’s website.
“The research speaks clearly: U.S. churches have a unique opportunity to engage those who care most deeply about facilitating justice for the poor and who are equipped to make a difference,” the Compassion International blog post said.
Barna also gathered data on the frequency and the ways in which pastors share ideas about caring for the globally poor.
In the past year, 55 percent of church leaders have taught or preached about international poverty in church, according to Barna. In the past three months, slightly fewer (52 percent) have talked about poverty with children in their family or close circle.
Meanwhile, 43 percent of church leaders have tried to persuade someone to volunteer or donate to the poor in the last three months, and 30 percent have posted about poverty on social media.
HELEN GIBSON (@_HelenGibson_) is a freelance writer in Nashville, Tennessee.