Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Survey Says: Rationale, Data, and Methodology

At the peak of my Save OBU activism this spring, I conducted a survey of many Oklahoma Baptist pastors and church staff members.  I intended to analyze the data immediately, but life happened.  My daughter was born April 18, for starters.  Beyond that, things at OBU stabilized somewhat.  We projected that no professors would be victims of ideologically-motivated dismissals.  The provost finally underwent a performance evaluation, which I (wrongly) believed would finally convince President Whitlock it was time for Stan to move on.  Sure, fundamentalism reared its ugly head on occasion in predictable and disappointing ways.  But at least things (arguably) weren't getting worse.

Anyway, I am finally analyzing the survey data.  Last week, I introduced the "Survey Says" series.  After a break reflecting on Reformation Sunday, I wanted to post some information about the survey, how it was conducted, and why it was necessary.  I also want to make the data publicly available.

OBU's relationship with the BGCO is largely open to interpretation.  Some at OBU probably think that the state's pulpits and pews are filled with unthinking backwater fundamentalists.  Some in the pulpits and pews probably think that OBU is filled with left-wing liberals who deny Scripture and espouse secular humanist ideologies.  Both positions are caricatures.  OBU sends preacher boys and choir girls into the churches one day a year.  The religion professors conduct Bible studies in churches and do pulpit supply and interim pastorates.  The president goes to the BGCO meeting and gives a speech.  But the relationship could also be construed as an awkward, amorphous dance.  Would each entity knowing more about what the other does and values foster more closeness or more distance?

OBU wouldn't undertake a project like this - at least not for public consumption - for fear that it would reveal mistrust among clergy and laity in a convention that has become largely fundamentalist as OBU has remained largely moderate.  The BGCO would never publicize attitudes about the BGCO-OBU relationship, because the status quo works well for BGCO elites even though OBU sends fewer and fewer graduates to BGCO pulpits.  If people reflect critically on the relationship for even a moment, they are much more likely to conclude that the convention should loosen its ties, not clamp down on an institution that gets about 20% of the BGCO's Oklahoma Cooperative Program allotment even though it raises over $50 million each year on its own.

By collecting email addresses found at the domain www.bgco.org (here, among other pages), I amassed a list of over 1,000 email addresses.  After eliminating duplicates, I sent out 991 email invitations using Survey Monkey, an online survey tool.  Thirty-one of the emails bounced.  Of the 960 that were received, 137 persons responded to the survey, for a response rate of 14.27%.  Due to my work as a political scientist, I know the scholarly literature on survey design and methodology very well.  Given that there were no incentives for responding and I only sent out two waves of invitations to complete the survey, I'm satisfied with the response rate.  Many of the email addresses were generic (admin@fbc.org, info@firstbaptist.org, etc).  Many of the addresses were to church secretaries who were less likely to have responded (and whose feedback is frankly less valuable than pastors' or program ministers').  Thus the effective response rate was quite satisfactory, perhaps indicative of the issue's salience.

Survey Monkey collected each respondent's IP address and email address when it aggregated all the responses in to an Excel spreadsheet.  But I assured respondents that their participation in the survey would be anonymous.  So I have redacted potentially identifying details from the public data file.  In order to be transparent, I am making that data file available.  I will offer analysis and commentary on the survey results on the blog.  If you want to see the data for yourself, simply email me and I will send you the file.


Q1. What best describes your ministry position?

  • Full-time senior pastor
  • Part-time senior pastor
  • Full-time associate/assistant pastor
  • Part-time associate/assistant pastor
  • Full-time program director (Christian education, youth, music, college, adult, children's director, etc.)
  • Part-time program director (Christian education, youth, music, college, adult, children's director, etc.)
  • Volunteer program director (Christian education, youth, music, college, adult, children's director, etc.)
  • Full-time support staff (Administrator, administrative assistant, ministry area assistant)
  • Part-time support staff (Administrator, administrative assistant, ministry area assistant)
  • Volunteer support staff (Administrator, administrative assistant, ministry area assistant)
  • Campus minister
  • Chaplain
  • Missionary
  • Association staff
  • Convention staff
  • Educator

Q2. If your ministry setting primarily...?
  • A hospital
  • A college campus
  • A local church
  • A community agency
  • A military installation
  • A convention, association, or other denominational office
  • Other (please specify)

Q3. Where would you place yourself on the theological spectrum?
  • Fundamentalist (Jerry Falwell)
  • Very conservative (Paige Patterson)
  • Somewhat conservative (Billy Graham)
  • Moderate or middle-of-the-road (Rick Warren)
  • Somewhat liberal (Harry Emerson Fosdick)
  • Very liberal (William Sloane Coffin)
  • Radical (John Shelby Spong)

Q4. The college you attended (undergraduate) was
  • A state/public college or university
  • Oklahoma Baptist University
  • Another Baptist school affiliated with a state convention
  • Another Christian college
  • A non-Christian private college or university
  • I didn't go to college

Q5. The seminary you attended was (if you attended more than one, think of the seminary where you earned your M.Div. or equivalent)
  • I have not graduated from seminary
  • SBTS before the mid 1990s
  • SBTS since the mid 1990s
  • SEBTS before the mid 1990s
  • SEBTS since the mid 1990s
  • GGBTS before the mid 1990s
  • GGBTS since the mid 1990s
  • MBTS before the mid 1990s
  • MBTS since the mid 1990s
  • NOBTS before the mid 1990s
  • NOBTS since the mid 1990s
  • SWBTS before the mid 1990s
  • SWBTS since the mid 1990s
  • A Mainline Protestant seminary (ELCA, Episcopal, PCUSA, UMC, Disciples of Christ, UCC)
  • An American Baptist Convention seminary
  • A Cooperative Baptist Fellowship seminary
  • A non-Baptist evangelical seminary (Fuller, Gordon-Conwell, Asbury, etc.)
  • A fundamentalist Bible academy or seminary
  • Other (please specify)

Q6. In terms of ideology and theological orientation, you think OBU is
  • So outrageously secular I think it's a lost cause
  • Far too liberal
  • Somewhat too liberal
  • About right
  • Somewhat too conservative
  • Far too conservative
  • So outrageously fundamentalist I think it's a lost cause

Q7. Thinking about young people from your church who have gone to OBU over the years, which of the following most closely reflects your experience, observations, and what you've heard?
  • A significant number of students lose their faith at OBU.
  • Many students tend to believe less about the Bible after studying at OBU, but not all.
  • Some students lose their belief in a literal Bible, but most students' faith is strengthened.
  • Generally, students come away with a deeper biblical faith, even if a few drift away.
  • OBU produces graduates who believe very strongly in the inerrant, infalible Word of God.

Q8. The BGCO gives about 18% of its Oklahoma Cooperative Program allocation to OBU. OBU has an annual budget of $53 million.  It raises more than 95% of that on its own, and the BGCO supplies the rest (4.7% this year). Thinking of the BGCO's $2,500,000 annual subsidy to OBU, you think the convention should
  • Send significantly more money to OBU at the expense of other ministry and mission priorities
  • Send somewhat more money to OBU at the expense of other ministry and mission priorities
  • Maintain current subsidy levels
  • Send somewhat less money to OBU and spend more on evangelism, Falls Creek, church planting, and/or collegiate ministries
  • Send significantly less money to OBU and spend more on evangelism, Falls Creed, church planting, and/or collegiate ministries
  • De-fund OBU and spend the $2.5 million on other Oklahoma ministry and mission priorities
  • De-fund OBU and send the $2.5 million to the SBC

Q9. Regarding the BGCO's relationship to OBU (it owns the property and elects the Board of Trustees), which statement most closely matches your opinion?
  • Continue to subsidize OBU and try to force it to become more conservative.
  • The status quo is fine. Continue to subsidize OBU and let it operate pretty much as-is.
  • Continue to subsidize OBU and give the university more autonomy over its affairs.
  • Cut spending and subsidize OBU jointly with the CBFO or another Baptist body.
  • Sever ties with OBU and found/operate another college that is more Bible-based.
  • Sever ties with OBU and get out of the higher education business altogether because it is not our primary mission.
  • Sever ties with OBU and get out of the higher education business altogether because the money is better invested in other ministries and missions.

Q10. Comments about OBU, the BGCO's interest and investment in higher education, or the OBU/BGCO relationship in general.

I look forward in sharing the results of my analysis in the days to come as we look forward to Homecoming November 9-10 in Shawnee and the BGCO's 2012 annual meeting November 12-13 in Moore.


  1. Looking forward to seeing the data. Curious if there's anything music-specific, given recent events with faculty in the Music Division.

    1. There's nothing specific to any departments. It just assesses attitudes toward OBU and the BGCO/OBU relationship in general. But I have heard rumblings from a number of people about the music division. I have a post (or series) planned called "Fine Arts Fiasco." But I need a coherent narrative about what the problems are. So far, all I am able to determine is that the last decanal hire was hijacked. But more on that later. Please email me with specifics.


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