Tuesday, February 07, 2006

I've been reading

a lot about churches/pastors and what not for your basic 10 page paper.

There is a fascinating article from Pulpit and Pew.

In my report on clergy supply and demand,I pointed
to evidence of two trends that have direct implications
for clergy careers.First,a growing number of small
churches cannot afford to hire a full time pastor.
Second,there appears to be a declining number of
larger churches.While the data on available clergy
positions leaves much to be desired,the distribution
of jobs that it suggests has a direct impact on the
opportunities for clergy mobility in these
denominations.When job opportunities narrow
sharply at the top,and when this is combined with a
growing number of small churches unable to afford a
full-time pastor,the chances of gaining a good
pastoral position right out of seminary or advancing
throughout one’s career begins to decline.
If the number of senior pastor positions is shrinking,
this suggests that the majority of clergy will spend
most of their working lives in mid-career positions,
that is,as assistant or associate pastors or as pastors
of small and medium sized churches.This means that
newly ordained seminarians will have fewer chances
to be hired into these positions,since they will be
competing with clergy who already have a number of
years of experience.

.. .Clergy ordained between 1970-1980
had a far better chance of getting a parish job within
the first two years after seminary graduation.In this
cohort 85 percent of the men and 70 percent of the
women could expect a parish placement within the
first two years (and the majority received jobs within
the first six months),but for those ordained after
1980,only 60-70 percent received parish jobs within
the first two years (again,the majority received their
jobs within the first six months).This suggests that in
this cohort between 30 and 40 percent of new M.Div.
graduates either get jobs in non-parish positions,in
secular work,or drop out.

Next to consider is if pastors are effective or not. There is a body of research done from by Hartford Seminary (Faith Communities Today, among others) and Concordia that large segment of the ministers in the UMC are considered "not effective" -- unlike those in denominations that operate on a call system. I can't find the reference right now, but it was around 22%. (I can't find that reference and it bothers me.)(if you know the reference PLEASE let me know.)

My question is: if Ms. Chang in the Pulpit and Pew report is correct, then why even attempt to go into the parish? If there are declining numbers of large churches and declining numbers of small churches that can afford a minister, AND ineffectual ministers that cannot be disposed of easily, why even try?

Perhaps the problems are not related -- perhaps the ineffectual ministers are not CAUSING the small churches to not afford apportionment. Perhaps these smaller churches are the canaries in the mine shaft -- indicative of the death of denominationalism in America. Of course, having ineffectual ministers in these churches does not help.

I'm thinking primarily of the churches my peers are pastoring too. I could name a half dozen in North Georgia off the top of my head. All with a chapel mentality, all with a VERY aging population (average age over 60 -- maybe closer to 80). How can these churches ever be effectual themselves? How COULD a minister succeed in these churches?

Maybe the answer is to cut deadwood -- not just in the pastorate, but eliminate killer churches that destroy good pastors.

I know that sounds cold hearted, but we either need to train pastors differently -- at least those who are going into dead and dying churches or those with toxic environments, or find a Godly way to admonish these churches.

My musings for this morning.

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