THE FAST COMING PASTOR SHORTAGE
revitalization sees 4000 churches close a year. The thought scares younger
pastors into not wanting to go where they are needed. They also hear the
stories of struggles, fights, and other issues that must be dealt with in revitalization,
and they would instead plant a church and mold it in the way they see a church
should be. The next is church planting. More young pastors are planting
churches today than ever. However, since 2000, statistics show that only around
50% of these churches stay open. They are showing why 95% of mergers between a
revitalization and a church plant are successful because the stronger points of
each cancel the failing factors in both. Again, several factors are to blame,
including that most church plants have been mobile for up to 10 years, and the
struggle to find a permanent home is brutal.
schooling. The cost of seminaries is a considerable burden for all pastors. The
churches looking to hire the younger men graduating insult them with their
offers. A couple of pastor friends, one 42 and the other 74, pointed out
similar scenarios when we look at what churches say on their jobs. “Looking for
a pastor 25-50 must have Ph.D., but will consider M.Div. 6 years minimum
experience in a large church. Must find housing. $30,000 a year.” Many churches
regret selling their parsonages. The housing market is so rough right now that 95%
of the country has no inventory of homes or apartments. I have read and heard
of Pastors buying what are called Park Model RVs, the original Tiny Homes, to
move into temporarily on church properties until they can find a place. These “classic”
trailers you saw in TV and movies in the 60s and 70s bought veterans who wanted
to be alone and became famous in shows like The Rockford Files. Also, many cities
and towns in larger population states, seeing this in New England, are capping
building limits to only a dozen or fewer homes a year.
When you factor
in that pastors have between $60-$100 thousand in student debt, it becomes
harder for churches but it also turns off potential pastors. Many churches also
have a mindset that they need a seminary graduate. Bible Colleges have made
their four-year degrees a slight, a sliver, downgrade from a seminary degree.
When I attended Eastern Nazarene College in the 2000s, they saw this trend
beginning in many of the traditional Wesleyan denominations. My class was the
test class, and the group right after was the first class allowed full ordination
as Nazarene and other Wesleyan pastors. There was a stronger emphasis on
different portions, from theology to languages. They are making it so that
Seminary is a choice if wanted. So many want the seminary degree, but fewer choose
this pathway, so churches must change their viewpoint.
Another point is
that as Church Answers recently figured out, more people are going to larger
churches of 300+, so many of these churches are hiring pastors. So these men, regardless
of age, are secured in a paying ministry position. The issue means there is
less willingness to go into or even go back in the field or that many churches are
unwilling to release men into ministry. They hear the horror stories of
established churches and churches in need of revitalization, reluctant to
follow the pastor’s suggestions, and they think, “Why should I go there?” they have
heard the stories of abuse that pastors and their families have endured. Many of
them do not return to ministry or even to a second or third chair position when
they leave. For those reading and wondering what a second and third chair spot
is, it is an associate pastoral position with a lot of responsibility.
In the six years,
I have been in the first seat, moving up from a third seat, I have seen at
least two dozen pastors leave my state in desperate need of a Gospel message. Of
those men, I can say about ¼ are pastors, first seat, in another church. Less
than ¼ are second or third-seat pastors. The rest? They have either left
ministry entirely or gone on to para-church ministry. Meanwhile, I pray that
the recent church planting meeting of my denomination in the state will send
planters to the area I and three other churches are in as we struggle to
minister to 600,000 people.
One of those men
merged his church with a church plant. He then moved to another state to plant
a church, having gotten tired of the politics of a dying established church. He
soon discovered that several churches in his area desperately needed pastors.
He had moved into a fast-growing area and was offered an exciting situation.
Plant his church and start it as a plant, in a hybrid of a replant. I will be
interviewing him for my podcast in the future to discuss this. I cannot do the
always fun. I find it fulfilling, and I know I am called to it. I have had
about a dozen pastors recently confirm that call. But it is challenging, heartbreaking,
and may not be what we thought it would be or end up all the time, but in the
end, I know that God will exalt me for what I have done—the good, fun, challenging,
bad, and hard stuff.