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Array of data available to SBC churches from research center


ALPHARETTA (BP) — Where would you find research on planting new churches, refocusing declining churches through evangelism, reaching young adults through conversion growth, or best practices for evangelizing children?

The North American Mission Board – even going back to its predecessor, the Home Mission Board — has always operated a research division. But NAMB’s new Center for Missional Research (CMR) has revamped and expanded its operations to become more interactive in providing research data to SBC churches.

“In addition to being the keeper of information, we also wanted to develop research to make churches more effective in evangelism, church planting, and in sending missionaries,” Ed Stetzer, CMR director and missiologist, said. “That is NAMB’s passion and challenge today. We want our leaders to be able to make strategic missional decisions.”

To meet these needs, the center offers research tools, new research, and resources at no cost to SBC churches and church planters.

Stetzer said the word “missional” was included in the official name of the new research center because “we want to help make SBC churches think and act like missionaries.”

The CMR’s website – or – is organized into three broad categories: Knowing Church, Knowing Culture, and Knowing Community.

Knowing Community includes a demographic profile with traffic flow reports that can tell a church where to buy billboard space, for instance. It includes local population statistics and trends broken down by age, gender, ethnic group, household income, education, consumer habits, recreational activities, and personal values.

Stetzer said some 250 churches a month request and download the center’s Knowing Community data – a package valued at $200 – which is available free to all Southern Baptist churches.

And if you’re that pastor needing quick, thorough SBC research for upcoming sermons, the CMR’s website includes more than 1,600 immediately downloadable PowerPoint presentations on a myriad of subjects.

The Knowing Culture pages include information on cultural and moral issues, ranging from abortion to pornography.

A frequent visitor to CMR’s website is Jim Gatliff, associate director of missions for Hunt Baptist Association in Greenville, Texas.

“We use the center’s research and demographic data for church planting,” Gatliff said. “It helps us find locations for new works.” By merely plugging in addresses and zip codes, Gatliff said he can identify 30 potential locations for planting a new church.

“It’s by far the best thing available out there,” he said. “It doesn’t take the place of doing door-to-door surveys, but it prepares you for door-to-door.”

During a recent national launch, the Center for Missional Research also rolled out another database – People Groups – which breaks down people groups living in a given state and city by nationality, language spoken at home and ancestry. People Groups, at, is jointly sponsored by NAMB and the International Mission Board.

The CMR will commission some 20 separate research projects during 2007, all designed to help churches carry out more effective ministries, Stetzer said.

One forthcoming project is a study of more than 300 churches that have experienced significant evangelistic revitalization after a protracted period of decline, Stetzer said. This CMR research is slated to be released in May.

Last year’s CMR research resulted in reports such as “The Rise of House Churches and Alternative Faith Communities”; “How the Unchurched View Southern Baptists”; and “Disturbing Trends in Baptisms.”