Barna presents research on Pastor reading habits
Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Posted by: Sheri Toomb
Pastors Love Books!
by David Kinnaman, President, Barna Group
While most in the publishing community recognize that
Christians play an important role in creating many bestsellers (The Purpose-Driven Life remains one of
the bestselling hardcover books of all time), few fully understand the
influence of faith leaders—pastors, ministers, reverends and priests—when it
comes to books and the book industry.
Let’s start with the fact that pastors love books. You may
have guessed that pastors tend to be readers. But just how zealous they are is
surprising. One of the nation’s most loyal book-buying audiences, 92% of all
pastors in the U.S. say they buy at least one book every month, and they
average 3.8 books per month. That’s anywhere from 12 to 46 books a year. Compare
that to the total population, where only 29.3% of American adults buy more than
10 books in the course of a year.
That means pastors, as a group, purchase between 8 million
and 13 million books every year. And that number doesn’t account for the book
purchases they influence—those of their staffs, boards and congregants. You can
imagine how the numbers increase when you factor those in.
Quite simply, pastors are one of the most loyal segments of
buyers fueling the book industry. Here are a few of the interesting revelations
we discovered recently as we interviewed pastors about their book-buying habits
for the Barna Group’s new report, Pastors
Where They Buy
You might also be surprised to learn that Christian retail retains
significant pull for many pastors. This is somewhat of a surprise in a world
where independent retailers of all stripes are struggling. One factor that
helps explain this is that many pastors say they want to support the business
and ministry of Christian retailers. This sentiment—particularly for bricks and
mortar Christian retail—is changing with the generations, however. As you might
have guessed, younger pastors are leading the shift to online buying, with 57%
of Buster pastors (ages 28-46) expressing a preference for online.
Topic or Author?
When a pastor selects a ministry-related book, the most
important factor, by a wide margin, is the topic. 58% of pastors say topic is
the most important factor, while only 15% give top priority to the author of
the book. This was consistent across all generations and across all church
sizes. This is surprising in our culture of celebrity authors. Is it possible
that we are placing too much emphasis on promoting authors, particularly when we
are selling books to pastors?
By a large margin, pastors in the U.S. prefer to read books
in hardcover (55%). Only 24% prefer paperback, and 16% prefer digital. While
e-book sales in the industry are booming and print declining, pastors of all
generations and in all church sizes still prefer their hardcovers!
This finding is offset by the huge growth of e-reading
devices, which have tripled in their penetration among pastors in the last two
years. We project that the demand for digital content is going to increase
significantly in the coming months.
Get the Full Report
As you can see just from these few highlights, pastors tend
to buck the conventional wisdom when it comes to their book buying habits. They
buy more than the average adult, more often, and differently. This specialized and
highly energized audience is a key part of the success of the Christian book
business, and to serve them well, publishers need to understand how, where, what
and why pastors buy when it comes to books.
To provide a better picture of this important customer, we
conducted a nationwide research study that answers these questions. The results
of this study are available in the new Barna Report, Pastors + Books. Our new report provides rare market insights into
this important group of influencers.
Special Offer for
ECPA Members Only
As a special service to ECPA members, Barna Group president David Kinnaman
will personally do interpretive dance at your next staff meeting when your
organization purchases the report. (OK, that’s neither desirable nor true!) But David would be happy to offer a complimentary telephone
conference call on the research for any buyers of the report.
To find out more about the contents or to order, please
Kinnaman joined Barna Group in 1995 as an intern. Now heis the
president and majority owner of the firm, a visionary research and resource
company located in Ventura, California.
joining Barna, David has designed and analyzed hundreds of market research
projects for a variety of clients, including the American Bible Society, the
Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, CARE, Columbia House, Compassion, Easter
Seals, Focus on the Family, Habitat for Humanity, NBC-Universal, The ONE Campaign,
the Salvation Army, SONY, Walden Media, World Vision, Zondervan (Harper
Collins) and many others.
addition to client studies, he has overseen nearly 100 nationwide,
representative research studies among American adults, teenagers, tweens, and
clergy on matters of faith, spirituality, public opinion, political attitudes,
and cultural dynamics. This body of public opinion research is frequently
quoted from pulpits and in major media outlets (such as USA Today,The Wall Street Journal, CNN,Fox News,Chicago Tribune,The New York Times, and The Los
Angeles Times). In total, during Kinnaman’s 16 years at the firm, he has
supervised or directed interviews with more than 350,000 individuals and
is the author of the best-selling book,unChristian,and a new 2011 release entitled, You Lost Me,both of
which explore faith and spirituality among teens and young adults. He
frequently speaks publicly on topics of cultural and spiritual trends,
teenagers and young adults, leadership and influence, as well as vocation
lives in Ventura, California, with his wife Jill and three children, Emily,
Annika, and Zack.