Thoughts About Young Clergy

Carol Howard Merritt has a post up about the young clergy crisis. Here’s a bit of her post:

Since I’ve been chairing a national Presbyterian Church (USA) committee on the Nature of the Church for the 21st century, I’ve been gaining a different perspective on many of the larger trends of our denomination. One thing that has been difficult to realize (and equally difficult to communicate to the larger church) is the young clergy crisis. Why would I call it a crisis? We’ve known for a long time about the startling decline of young clergy. The drop-out rates don’t help (I can’t find hard and fast stats on this… but some claim that about 70% of young clergy drop out within the first five years of ministry, usually because of lack of support or financial reasons). The average age of a pastor in the PCUSA is 53. And I’ve realized that the age of our leadership might be much higher. Over half of our congregations cannot afford a full-time pastor and many associate pastor positions were cut during the recent economic downturn. These are churches where seminary graduates would normally be heading, so what are the congregations doing instead? Many of them are hiring retired ministers or retired laypeople to serve these churches while our younger pastors remain unemployed.

The post has garnered a lot of fellow young clergy and the like agreeing with her. In some ways, I agree as well. Mainline Protestant denominations don’t do a good job with younger clergy. Churches are cutting Associate Pastor positions, which in many ways have been the entry point for young pastors. Also, denominations and seminaries need to deal with the ongoing debt issue. Many people (myself included) come out of seminary with a lot of debt. These young clergy then need to have a well paying call to help pay off the debt. Then there is a silent generational conflict going on with Baby Boomer pastors on the one side and GenX and Millenial pastors on the other and right now the Boomers are winning.

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