Opinion: A Pastoral Primer

   The evidence of our eyes is simply understood. Our baptist work in Texas is aging. This creates several situations in need of general discussion.

   As our clergy population ages, churches will have to accomodate themselves to the fact that the Jesus Generation men and women of the sixties are now coming into their sixties. One major American denomination says it may cease to exist by 2020 if it cannot start to attract younger ministers.

   While our present clergy age, younger persons who come into the ministry leave in staggering numbers within five years after seminary. I hear estimates of up to fifty per cent going to do something other than local church ministry. One should remember these seminary classes, as regards local church ministry, are not that large in the beginning.

   I cannot pick up a denominational mail-out without reading of another fellow or several who have left the ministry in their fifties, forced out by churches that grow increasingly unsettled, or, if I say what I really intend, are just ever more unkind. This makes the clergy crisis that much deeper.

   In fact, the shift in population to a different ethnic makeup and an aging Anglo population has doomed many mainline churches. The president of the SBC, now a declining denomination statistically, says as many as 50% of SBC churches may close their doors for the last time within ten years.

   What to do?

   Take a big breath.

   We might invest additional energies in recruiting the ethnically appropriate ministers needed in our state. AT present, that is a hit and miss proposition.

   We might adjust our treatment of ministers in their later years, in order to keep them on board longer. There is absolutely nothing out there for those people.

    Ministers of long standing might adjust themselves to the feelings of desperation in their aging congregations. People feel pushed aside as the things that have always worked for them suddenly leave them with empty pews in crumbling buildings where the facitlity is no longer an asset and the word baptist is more an epithet than an epiphnetic entry point.

   Ministers of long standing might have to redraw some lines regarding retirement. If health issues mean a man/woman can no longer serve full-time, so be it, but those who can will have to stay on awhile longer, recruit better and stand the slings and arrows of pathological antagonists for as long as we can take it and then one more day beside.

   God is still good.

1 thought on “Opinion: A Pastoral Primer”

  1. I remember in seminary we read a book about this problem. I believe the book came from the Alban Institute. I remember thinking at that time, “Why does a Baptist need to read this book? We are starting new seminaries, not closing them.”
    How wrong I was. More than half of the graduates from my class chose not to go into parish related ministry. Of those who did, the five year barrier you mentioned has had effect. I too sought a secular vocation for a time.
    You are right in identifying number problem we will face in next 10-20 years. The multiple solutions you suggest are a good start.
    Several years ago the Catholics began recruiting priests by printing billboard signs saying, “Consider the Priesthood.”
    I wonder how long until we encourage our best and brightest to consider the ministry as a worthwhile life vocation. I do not hear of many pastors who encourage the young to consider whether God is calling them to Christian service.
    MR

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