Have you, fellow minister, ever wondered what the people in the pews thought of you? By this I do not mean what they say to you at the door on Sabbath morning at the close of the service, but what they actually think.
I have long considered it important to get "consumer reactions" to whatever I have had the responsibility of giving out. During the time in which I was editor of These Times we had several professionally conducted reader surveys made. We were more than startled by some of the things these surveys revealed. Even today the format of the magazine still reflects some of the secrets thus revealed.
A few months ago, still convinced of the value of "consumer reactions," I conducted a poll of all the local church elders in the Wisconsin Conference. I do not claim to be an expert pollster but I did my best. Accompanying the questionnaires was a letter asking the elders to take into their reckoning not only their present pastor but the pastors they had had during the past ten years or so.
The answers to my questions startled me. Perhaps you may find food for thought in the accompanying results. But before you draw any hasty conclusions may I state that, in my opinion, we should not brush aside these answers from the elders. Some of these men are well-educated professional men; some are not so well educated from the standpoint of formal education. But they are all the elected elders of their respective churches, and as such are considered the best-qualified men in the church, spiritually and mentally, for this position.
I think their answers are worthy of thought.
May I point out one salient point? You will notice that in the "strong points" column, "visiting church members" appears at the bottom of the list, while in the "weak points" column it is at the top. It seems to me that this is more than coincidental. Personal observation leads me to believe that the elders are right. Occasional appreciative remarks about pastors who do visit have the ring of surprise and appreciation in them.
One more word of explanation. I asked the elders to return the questionnaires unsigned, and my secretary opened the envelopes so that I have no idea who mailed in the answers, nor to which minister they applied.
Preacher, if you have the nerve you might want to verify these answers in your own congregation