The Church Is Changing: Is The Day Of The “Paid Pastor” Over?
I saw a video over at Tony Jones’ blog which should be chilling wake up call to anyone under 30 who wants to be a pastor or go into some form of professional ministry. Its a clip from PBS on the decline of “paid” pastoral roles at congregations within the United States.
Says Greg Sterling, Head of the Yale Divinity School:
There are about 300,000 churches and congregations in the United States. I don’t know what the percentage of those are financially viable enough in the sense of having the capacity to support someone on a full time basis but my guess is the majority are not…
The video shows numerous seminary graduates or qualified ministers who are holding down part time jobs to make ends meet while they struggle to look for a church to hire them.
Which begs the question “Is being a pastor a viable career choice for the 21st century?”
Was it ever meant to be a career choice?
Was ministry supposed to be something we sent CVs and resumes out for hoping to score a job?
As I watched this video I felt for some of these guys. They bought into the church “system” but that “system” is disappearing. They are horse and buggy drivers and the first Model Ts are coming off the assembly line.
Some of the comments on Tony’s blog shine some more light on the issue:
* “Every time someone tells me they’re going to seminary, I tell them to get an MBA instead. Or an MFT. Anything, for God’s sake, but an Mdiv.”
* “In the future (I’m talking 30-50 years) most pastors will have to do their jobs on a voluntary or part-time basis. It being a career will be a thing of the past.”
* “Many of us pastors now are earning our livings out there in the “real world” and our ministry is completely voluntary. The career path of the past 100 years is already dead and gone; just too many of us haven’t realized it yet.”
* “Good news for religious professionals is hard to come by these days.”
* “This almost makes me rethink going to Seminary.”
I must admit I get a little nervous when someone under 25 tells me they are going to Seminary or Bible college. My concern is the possible struggle they will have later in life in a field that is increasingly a “non-paid” position.
Granted there is still enough of the “system” that it could work out…but I have seen many a pastor have to make a transition to the “secular” work environment in their 30s and 40s armed with only a Bachelors in Missiology…
…and it ain’t pretty!
I remember when I started my undergraduate studies. I did it more as a hobby as I was already a pastor with my mind determined that was my life’s occupation. With that in mind I decided to get a “secular” based Bachelor’s degree to help me feel connected to the “real world”. A pastor friend of mine took issue with that and tried very hard to encourage me to get a religious B.A. which would be the springboard to a Master of Divinity. I thought about it for a bit as I really admired the man and respected him a lot but…
thank God I didn’t take his advice!
Church leaders in the 21st Century
In the first century the newly established Christian communities were led by:
* tent makers
* tax collectors
and I’m certain a host of other professions. There were no “church professionals” back then. A desire to serve others and the anointing of the Holy Spirit seemed to be ordination enough for a group of people that took Christ’s message of love and reconciliation to the ends of the Earth!
In like manner the emerging Christian communities of the 21st century will be led by:
* skilled labor
* white collar workers
* blue collar workers
and a myriad of other people with the calling of God on their lives.
You want a leadership role in the 21st Century church?
You best learn to:
* Love God
* Love People
…oh, and it would probably help to get a job!
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