How serious is the clergy shortage in conservative churches?

We have long heard of clergy shortages among Roman Catholics and liberal mainline churches.  Now, it seems, conservative churches are sharing the problem. It is referred to as "The Great American Clergy Shortage."

I am in the process of retiring after having been in pastoral ministry for 43 years.   I will be retiring by November 1; for months now, I have been trying to work with a pastoral selection committee to find a new pastor.  The pickings are very, very slim. 

When I thought about leaving the ministry 11 years ago, the average church received 200 resumes if they posted on a number of seminary/Bible college sites.  It was almost impossible to even get an opportunity to candidate; The situation that was driving me out was addressed, so I remained here another 11 years.  

Having posted at Moody, Grace, Dallas, Calvary, and now Chafer, Emmaus, and several others, we have heard almost nothing.  We did hear from two pastors in Africa trying to get a ride to the USA and one candidate who decided he wasn't ready for ministry yet.  We tried a head hunter who sent us a few names, but, while evangelical, they were not compatible with our doctrinal positions (and we are only moderately picky; we would accept candidates, for example, with a variety of views on the timing of the rapture).

So how serious is the pastor shortage?  What is your view?

If you help place pastors or are in an organization that gives you special insight and knowledge, please make sure to comment.  All comments, of course, are appreciated.

You can read about one assessment of it HERE, if you like.

 

It is serious and will be a problem for the long term.
55% (11 votes)
It is serious but the problem is short term.
0% (0 votes)
There is a shortage, but it is not that bad and will probably not get worse.
10% (2 votes)
I never heard of a pastor shortage. News to me. So I have no opinion yet.
15% (3 votes)
There is no real shortage among conservative churches.
5% (1 vote)
Other.
15% (3 votes)
Total votes: 20
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There are 48 Comments

josh p's picture

I really don't know enough to say other than an anecdotal comment. A friend graduated with a masters degree from a conservative (baptist) seminary and had a hard time finding a position. Premillennialism also seems to be waning in the US which might make it hard to find pastors. 
Edit: not equating premillennialism with conservatism. Only pointing out that among conservatives, a smaller amount seem to be premil. 

Ed Vasicek's picture

Curious, Josh.  Was this during or before the Pandemic, or after?  The reason I ask is because it is supposedly the conflicts in church becasue of pandemic restriction differences that drove scads of pastors out of the ministry.

Also, we have had the opposite problem. We are Premil and dispensational, and the few candidates we had were usually covenant.

 

"The Midrash Detective"

josh p's picture

This was before the pandemic so that might not be a good representation. 
 

Yes that's what I meant to say. The majority of graduates are probably covenantal so it may be difficult to find a dispensational pastor. 

Dave White's picture

Supply and demand disconnect:

  • There are more seminary graduates looking for positions than open pulpits
  • Additionally in fundy circles, many of the open pulpit positions seriously underpay a man
Ed Vasicek's picture

Dave White wrote:

Supply and demand disconnect:

  • There are more seminary graduates looking for positions than open pulpits
  • Additionally in fundy circles, many of the open pulpit positions seriously underpay a man

Then send some my way, please, if they are dispensational or progressive dispensational!  We are finding the pickings slim.

"The Midrash Detective"

Don Johnson's picture

Don't think so.

All the stuff I read suggests otherwise, and perhaps among more conservative to fundamentalist churches the pickings are slimmer. The most conservative will tend to have more stringent requirements.

I haven't voted in your poll, I can't decide whether the problem is short term or long term. The Lord is able to raise up of these stones... 

 

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Jay's picture

Not in a position to hire a pastor or anything like that, but almost every pastor I know of is either making plans to leave the ministry, has a backup plan if they are forced out, or is seriously considering resigning.  Right or wrong, 2016 seems to be the year that many  churches cracked over politics and the "social justice" threat and many pastors are simply burned out and ready to bail.  It's not like the situation will improving soon, either.

Personally, I think God is getting ready to purge the visible church in a huge way, with judgment on America coming swiftly after that.  I'm sure that there are more men out there who will find their way to pulpits, but I think there's going to be a huge gap between supply and demand and that churches will increasingly become more and more demanding for less and less pay.  So I am extremely pessimistic about the future.  

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Ed Vasicek's picture

Jay, I think you are by and large on target. Fortunately, our church was able to stay out of politics (that is how I was trained at Moody; I graduated in 79).  Our church practiced good manners about the mandates, etc.  That could make me out of touch with the problem except that I have  pastor buddies whose people wanted the church to meld the cross with the flag; it did cause them stress for sure. These were churches that had not been too political in the past.  I also have pastor friends who see little distinctions between fundamentalist theology and Republican conservative politics.  They meld the two, and their churches are monolithic and rural, so it works for them.  Wheher this is right or not is a different issue.

However, I am not sure that the pay will go down for pastors.  Maybe in very small churches, perhaps.  But part of the reason for low pay is too much supply.   Candidates used to be all begging for an opportunity, and loads of resumes would flood search committees.  Now it is the opposite.   In that regard, I don't know it is all bad.  Many of these churches could raise big bucks for remodel projects, but kept their pastors on bread and water.  A lack of respect for the work of the pastor is rarely admitted, but often embraced in some churches.

This also suggests a rise in part time pastors, for those churches that truly could not pay their pastor a decent wage.

"The Midrash Detective"

Bert Perry's picture

I've been on search committees for the past few years, and it's real.  My take is that too many churches have looked past real moral issues on the part of incumbent pastors, paid too many pastors poorly, and have downgraded academic training to the point that many have said "the heck with it" and have cast their lot with the Reformed and Reformed-leaning.

Regarding those coming from conservative Baptist seminaries not finding positions, I've seen a couple of examples of that as well.  The guy I'm thinking of hit all the buttons--dispensational, MDIV, conservative in practice and theology, loved teaching--but there was a je ne sais quoi where churches were simply saying "I'll pass" on him.  

One thing that may be involved (cue Julie Roys and the travails of Hillsong, Harvest, and the like) is that many of us have become very enamored of the "megachurch" model and the importance of personal magnetism.  Guys like the Apostle Paul (2 Cor. 10:10) don't do well in that light.  And quite frankly, that should sober us.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

TylerR's picture

Editor

You increasingly gotta be bi-vocational, because churches are getting smaller and that isn't going to change. That isn't an attractive proposition to young guys. Even if you aren't bi-vocational, if your church can't do much else because it's budget is basically you and your family, it makes you think.

I don't like being bi-vocational. But, it's reality. The Christian gloss has left America. Reality says churches will have to attract and be willing to consider a bi-vocational pastor or close and/or limp along in a crippled state with perpetual interims.

Don't pine for days that are gone, or wax nostalgic about something that's not coming back. Embrace reality in this respect, and pump the brakes on idealism.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government.

Don Johnson's picture

"The church is doomed"

"It's not coming back"

etc.

Who are we serving? Who made you a prophet?

From the human perspective, there are many things that look bleak. Last I knew, God was still in charge. He will do what he wants to do. Just serve him and quit the belly-aching.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

TylerR's picture

Editor

My experience looking for an associate in 2019 is that there was no shortage. We advertised widely and found a good man within one month. We did Zoom interviews and had him out shortly thereafter.

But, times change. Three years is a long time.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government.

Ed Vasicek's picture

My experience looking for an associate in 2019 is that there was no shortage. We advertised widely and found a good man within one month. We did Zoom interviews and had him out shortly thereafter.

But, times change. Three years is a long time.

It is.  Not just three years, but the Pandemic is a line of demarcation.  It is a very significant line.  Pre-Pandemic vs. Post-Pandemic, although  the 2016 election start setting the modern tone.

As far as more part time pastors, I agree.  We either have to merge churches (or close some with people then scattering to others -- same effect) or have more that are smaller with bi-vocational pastors.  It will probably be some of both.  God's Kingdom in the U.S., however, should not be equated with God's Kingdom in the world. The church has been growing in Africa, Asia, and South America.   Perhaps the best way to think of things is that we need to reconfigure for modern realities.  And we may find that we have warmer fellowship and deeper commitment, even if we have smaller numbers.  I have known some wonderful Plymouth Brethren believers, for example.  Many of their congregations are completely lay-led, which tends to work better among the highly educated.  Still, they make the point that there are different paradigms for church life that still meet the criteria of Scripture.

"The Midrash Detective"

T Howard's picture

I recently made the decision to begin the transition from f/t corporate employment to f/t pastoral ministry. This year, I'm bi-vocational. Next year, Lord willing, I'll be in f/t pastoral ministry.

This transition means I'll need to find an insurance plan on the healthcare exchange for my family's healthcare needs. It means a significant pay cut (>$100K pay reduction). It means I'll no longer have money available to contribute to my retirement plan. It means my family will need to relocate and my youngest will need to attend the last two years of high school at a new school. It means my wife will have to get at least a part-time job.

Why did I choose to pursue this f/t pastoral opportunity? I believe God orchestrated the events of my life and brought me to a point where I needed to decide whether I was going to truly trust him or just say I trusted him. I know God has called me to pastoral ministry (i initially thought it was going to be bi-vocational ministry). My gifting and calling have been repeatedly affirmed by God's people. What was keeping me from f/t pastoral ministry was fear.

Thankfully, God has abundantly provided for my family over the last 17 years through my corporate job, and I will begin my f/t pastorate with significant retirement savings, a good savings / emergency fund, and a generally healthy family. We have no debt other than our mortgage. We are used to living well below our means.

That said, before my wife and I agreed to make this transition, the church had been looking for a pastor for nearly four years without much luck. It's a small-town SBC church that averages 90-120 people on Sunday, and the pastor was looking to retire after serving there for nearly 30 years (He just turned 70).

Here were some of the headwinds that I had to consider before saying yes to this f/t opportunity:

  1. Assessing financial feasibility based on a significantly reduced salary
  2. Gaining alignment with my wife and having her full support
  3. Understanding the various impacts to our family and lifestyle
  4. Navigating the current issues w/in the SBC (e.g. clergy sexual abuse, politics, and CRT)
  5. Wanting to transition the church away from a senior pastor model to a true elder plurality model
josh p's picture

That's wonderful news Tom! May the Lord richly bless you and your family there.

T Howard's picture

josh p wrote:

That's wonderful news Tom! May the Lord richly bless you and your family there.

Thanks, Josh. This has certainly been a significant step of faith for both my wife and me.

As I think about the current evangelical landscape, I can think of several things that may be keeping young men from pursuing / continuing in pastoral ministry:

  1. Significant debt. I just met a young man and his wife who graduated from Boyce College several years ago. He went there to go into pastoral ministry, but between he and his wife they have a lot of debt (student and consumer debt). They decided to get jobs instead of going into full-time ministry to pay off their debts.
  2. Low pay and few benefits. There's no way around it. If you pastor the average-sized church (~100) or less, your pay and benefits will most likely be meager compared to working in almost any other profession. Further, there is little chance your pay and benefits will increase that much unless the church grows numerically.
  3. Scandals w/in evangelicalism. Who wants to go into pastoral ministry when it seems there is a new pastoral spiritual abuse, sexual abuse, or financial scandal every other month within (conservative) evangelicalism? It's discouraging as a pastor / elder, because I know these scandals affect how the watching world sees Christianity, the church, and me as a pastor.
  4. Lack of Faithful Role Models. Kind of related to #3 ... How the mighty have fallen. I think I remember reading that the average tenure of a pastor is <5 years. When churches churn through pastors that quickly (or pastors churn through churches that quickly), there really are no faithful role models for young men to emulate or mentors for young men aspiring to be a pastor.
  5. Megachurch dreams. Some guys may dream about being a church planter who builds the next megachurch and who gets invited to speak at all the cool conferences. These guys see pastoral ministry as a way to showcase their "vision" and their giftedness and to build a ministry around a ceo / pastor model. When their church doesn't experience the growth they expect or they run into significant opposition to their "vision" or leadership, they head toward the exit. These guys are hirelings and should go into used car sales instead of shepherding a church.
  6. Fear of failure. This is what kept me from seriously pursing f/t pastoral ministry until Fall of 2020. Did I have the gifting, calling, and temperament to successfully navigate all the demands and craziness that occur in pastoral ministry. As long as I remained bi-vocational, I knew my livelihood wasn't on the line if I failed.
  7. Disobedience. I struggled with this one too. When God opens a door to pastoral ministry and asks you to trust his leading, will you? Or, will you find every excuse not to?
josh p's picture

Well-said! I'm actually being ordained in my church on Sunday. The Lord has brought me through a lot to get me to this point. I am so incredibly thankful to our merciful Lord for putting me into pastoral ministry! 

Ed Vasicek's picture

I can think of several things that may be keeping young men from pursuing / continuing in pastoral ministry

Josh, your list is good; some of these have always deterred men from entering ministry, some of the are relatively recent. 

There are two reasons, however, that best explain the drop in YOUNGER candidates:

1. Young adults have been deserting the faith or wandering from the Lord in great numbers. If there are fewer younger committed Christians, it follows that there would be fewer men entering ministry.  They have a hard time telling their  LGBTQ friends that their beliefs are such that they cannot endorse that lifestyle, so they change their beliefs to one that accomodates the LGBTQ lifestyle.  This is a MAJOR unappreciated factor.  They also want to live together or freely have sex apart from marriage (as do their peers, and as their peers expect, churched or not); to do this, they either change their beliefs or simply put distance between themselves and the Lord.

2. Young men are unmotivated.  So many are absorbed with video games, mooching off parents -- they are SLOW to mature.  If they get married, it is maybe at 35.  In addition, so many young men are so absorbed with internet porn that that the idea of going into the ministry is ludicrous.  Young men in general are less prone to work hard than previous generations, and they eschew commitments.I do not have any stats about graduates from Bible colleges and seminaries ACTUALLY entering the ministry, but I would guess it is significantly less than in the past.  I and many of my generation were EAGER to commit to serve as a pastor, although I had my fears and sense of inadequacy, as most of us do. That fear and sense of inadequacy is certainly warranted! But we forged ahead anyway, clinging to Paul's words, that our adequacy comes from God (2 Corinthians 3:5).  Just as we have a worker shortage in the mainstream -- partly because people do not want to commit to work -- so we have in the ministry.

As I have been prodding my connections, I have come to realize that there is a pastoral shortage -- not so much because of resignations (though that is part of it), but because of fewer new men seeking to serve, especially within churches that have more traditional Bible-oriented viewpoints.

"The Midrash Detective"

Mark_Smith's picture

My disappointment is how many churches are closed off to the idea of an older person becoming a first time pastor who didn't go through the teen youth group->bible college->youth pastor->senior pastor pathway. And how many churches looking for pastors have asked what my debt is and whether my wife works, but never asked my beliefs, or whether I can read Greek and Hebrew...

 

When I got saved 30 years ago as a 19 year old I felt like an outsider because I had not come up in the church youth group... that feeling has never left.

 

Ed Vasicek's picture

josh p wrote:

That was Tom actually. 

Oops.  I am so sorry, Josh.  I guess I really put words in your mouth!  Please accept my apology.  And Tom, please take notice!

"The Midrash Detective"

Ed Vasicek's picture

Mark, I am surprised you are having this trouble.  I would have never guessed.

I did not get saved till I was a senior in high school; I grew up Roman Catholic.  So I did know what it was like to be an outsider, but a number of people at the church that reached me (Cicero Bible Church, Cicero, IL) had come from lost families.  At Moody, a number of students had come from lost families, but probably not the majority. 

When I came to pastor in Indiana, however, things were very different.  

I know a  couple of men who did not actually go into the pastorate until 20 + years after they graduated. This includes the president of our class at Moody, and another man that had been a youth pastor for less than a year out of school and then out of the ministry for 20 years.  I never discussed this dynamic with them. But, then again, they were not seeking a church -- the churches knew them and asked them to consider pastoring.  That might be the difference.

Very few churches, it seems to me, care if you can read Greek and/or Hebrew.  There are exceptions, but I think it is a given that our churches are dumbed down from what they were. People rush to "do" the Word (or they say they are) but don't want to take time to understand what the Word really says. They don't know that they don't know.

Mark_Smith wrote:

My disappointment is how many churches are closed off to the idea of an older person becoming a first time pastor who didn't go through the teen youth group->bible college->youth pastor->senior pastor pathway. And how many churches looking for pastors have asked what my debt is and whether my wife works, but never asked my beliefs, or whether I can read Greek and Hebrew...

 

When I got saved 30 years ago as a 19 year old I felt like an outsider because I had not come up in the church youth group... that feeling has never left.

 

"The Midrash Detective"

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Mark_Smith wrote:

My disappointment is how many churches are closed off to the idea of an older person becoming a first time pastor who didn't go through the teen youth group->bible college->youth pastor->senior pastor pathway. And how many churches looking for pastors have asked what my debt is and whether my wife works, but never asked my beliefs, or whether I can read Greek and Hebrew...

Mark, my experience in this is limited to a single time serving on a pastoral search committee just under 11 years ago.  We definitely asked lots of questions about each candidate's education and beliefs, which included Greek & Hebrew experience (though ability to do all their Bible reading from the Greek and Hebrew manuscripts would certainly not have been a requirement), as well as how they fit into both yesterday's and today's versions of fundamentalism.

We also asked a number of personal questions.  If the wife worked another job, that certainly would not have been a disqualifying factor, but how the candidate answered that question would give us insight into how that circumstance would impact his ability to fulfill the job requirements.  Although we never asked anyone directly about debt, we told each candidate who got to a certain stage that we would do a full background check, so they knew what we would find out.

I can say that I could not have cared less how every aspect of path the candidate traveled to reach their current situation met the "fundamentalist preacher ideal path." I would say age and experience (whether as a previous assistant or senior pastor) would certainly be both interesting and relevant to his taking a senior pastor position of a church that had at that time about 100-120 members.  Of course, having other jobs that required leading and dealing with people would be relevant as well.

I'm not saying we would have easily hired someone who had never been a pastor before, but I can say we would have considered each candidate's situation independently, but also with knowledge that the candidate was coming in to leading an established church, and we would want to know if they are up to it.  I would say that's only expected.  I don't see that as much different from your university hiring a brand new PhD (even one with lots of other experience) as a full professor before being assistant or associate.  There are reasons that job experience matters.

As to age, it's not the most important factor, but when a man is looking to come be a full pastor at an established church, it's not unreasonable to want someone who has the necessary energy and vision to lead well and is not on the downhill side of his career path (or maybe I should say "working years" rather than career path).

Dave Barnhart

Mark_Smith's picture

Ed, you hit the nail on the head. I don't know anyone very well. That's my problem. With every pastor I know, there is some difference between me and them that ruins it for a recommendation. With a lot of local churches, its KJV bible use (I don't use it and will not use it). For others I think the PhD in physics is a deal breaker. Its like an arrest record... most don't even want to deal with it. Then the 3rd group is the whole Calvinism vs. "free will." Turns out the area I live in is 95% ardent "free will" whereas I "lean" Calvinist. It is a serious deal breaker. These 3 things are just from each of the elders of the church I formerly attended!

Dave, your search team seems reasonable. Most aren't. I'm talking small churches here. 50 people or less. Won't even return my call and I know from the SBC regional director that they received only a handful of applications. In one case I wrote a letter to the church asking why I was not considered. They replied with a thank you for applying generic letter. The person they did choose died 6 months later. They went 3 years without a pastor following that and wouldn't even return my call. I can give 5 other examples like this.

I guess its the "will of God" and I move on.

T Howard's picture

Mark,

These were the qualities that my church wanted in their next pastor (besides the biblical character qualifications):

  • A man who prioritizes ministry to his wife and family.
  • A man who faithfully exposits God’s Word. One who is able to clearly and effectively communicate in public speaking, as well as in personal conversation.
  • A man who embraces pastoral ministry and displays a shepherd’s heart. One who is characterized by selfless love for others.
  • A man who is missions minded. One who is knowledgeable and supportive of Southern Baptist mission work.
  • A man who holds to the doctrines of grace, and the five SOLAs of the Reformation. One who possesses sound, biblical theology.
  • A man who is committed to biblical spiritual church growth.
  • A man of courage and integrity. One who has a track record of stability, steadfastness, and perseverance.
  • A man of prayer.

After seeing three senior pastors fail at my former church, I'm not sure what qualifications are necessary to be a successful pastor. I have a BA in English, an MBA, and an MDiv. My ministry experience includes being a Sunday school teacher, small group leader, deacon, elder, and children's ministry director. My corporate experience includes being a director and leading a team of 6 f/t direct reports. I've been working at the same employer for the past 17 years in increasing levels of responsibility and leadership. These guys had all the right ministry credentials, theological education, and pastoral experience. Two of these men were extremely gifted preachers. The other was a gifted teacher. However, all three failed: two failed morally and the other failed because of poor leadership.

It seems many churches look for the dynamic and gifted guy. What I have learned is that you really want the faithful guy. But, the faithful guy isn't the one sending out resumes.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Mark_Smith wrote:

With a lot of local churches, its KJV bible use (I don't use it and will not use it). For others I think the PhD in physics is a deal breaker. Its like an arrest record... most don't even want to deal with it. Then the 3rd group is the whole Calvinism vs. "free will." Turns out the area I live in is 95% ardent "free will" whereas I "lean" Calvinist. It is a serious deal breaker.

I guess "hard" positions on issues that are not of first importance would have been a deal breaker for our church (at least for me on the committee).  E.g., our current pastor does not use the KJV, but doesn't oppose its use either (good thing, because that's what I use in the pew).  If a visiting preacher uses it, that's OK, though he wouldn't have a KJVO type in the pulpit.  He also leans Calvinistic, but doesn't make a big issue of it.  He spends no time preaching the "doctrines of Grace," but is clearly not a "free-will" type.  Given the education level of people in our area, a PhD in a non-Bible field would certainly not be a problem.  It at least indicates that the candidate can think and state ideas rigorously.  That's a plus in my opinion.

Extremes in either of the doctrinal positions you mentioned (only/anti-KJV, or hard Calvinist/hard Arminian would have been turnoffs to my decision-making process as one of the committee members, as the new pastor would be taking the job of pastoring people from all over the spectrum on those issues, as our church contains all of them, and those issues are not as clear as something like the virgin birth, no matter what their proponents claim.

Quote:

Won't even return my call and I know from the SBC regional director that they received only a handful of applications. In one case I wrote a letter to the church asking why I was not considered. They replied with a thank you for applying generic letter. The person they did choose died 6 months later. They went 3 years without a pastor following that and wouldn't even return my call. I can give 5 other examples like this.

It's clearly just rude when calls are not returned or accepted.  However, when deciding between a couple candidates to be able to present one to the church, if there are candidates that are equally qualified or very close, with each candidate having particular strengths, but only one makes the cut, it would be hard to give a reason that would satisfy someone not selected.  If the issue would be doctrinal disagreement, that would be easy to state.  It would be harder to explain differences in preaching style (as the committee listened to messages from the candidates).

I'm not a pastor, but when I have not been selected for a job after an interview, I've never gotten a hard and fast reason from the company.  It's always something like "we decided to go a different direction."  I'd say you'll have to get used to that part.

Dave Barnhart

Mark_Smith's picture

I appreciate your answers. In my case I suspect that each church I have applied to had a secret, undisclosed requirement. For example, use the KJV bible, or we don't believe in wife's working. In another case, I suspect the problem was division in the city SBC church community. I was coming from a church where the new church did not like my pastor. The thing is, if you send a man a 12 page questionnaire, and he fills it out in detail, the least you should do is met with him in some way, if only a phone call. I have spent dozens of hours answering long lists of doctrine questions in detail, only to be left feeling like the church didn't even look at my submission. That is rude.

 

Mark_Smith's picture

of 180,000, an independent Baptist church, had their pastor retire. After 6 months the opening was still there. Now, I am 49 mind you, with a MDiv and 30 years experience at church. I've done everything but be an elder. I applied thinking I had a reasonable chance. I filled out all the info, including a long doctrinal questionnaire. I submitted the application and checked on it after 2 weeks. The chair of the search committee said they had not looked at it yet. After a month, same answer. After 3 months, same answer. I finally asked if they were ever going to look at it. He said thank you for applying... A year later, a professor at the SBC seminary in Kansas City retired, and he became the pastor. Mind you, this church is 50 people at most!!!

 

Joeb's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

of 180,000, an independent Baptist church, had their pastor retire. After 6 months the opening was still there. Now, I am 49 mind you, with a MDiv and 30 years experience at church. I've done everything but be an elder. I applied thinking I had a reasonable chance. I filled out all the info, including a long doctrinal questionnaire. I submitted the application and checked on it after 2 weeks. The chair of the search committee said they had not looked at it yet. After a month, same answer. After 3 months, same answer. I finally asked if they were ever going to look at it. He said thank you for applying... A year later, a professor at the SBC seminary in Kansas City retired, and he became the pastor. Mind you, this church is 50 people at most!!!

Sorry that happened to you Mark   Very sad   What a way to have a church go from 50 to 30 real quick with a Pastor whose retired on the job  When I was considering a 3 year gig at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Glynnco GA I pretty much had a good shot at the job if I wanted it   In fact the Manager said they didn't want an Special Agent who was eligible or close to eligible to retire, because the guy was applying to get his retirement move paid for   Needless to say your matter smells strongly that it was the situation for this church.  Sad because you would not have been operating from that position.  

Bert Perry's picture

I don't know that my church, when looking for a new pastor a couple of years back, had "secret" requirements, but there were a number of things we were looking for--dispensational in interpretation and eschatology, cessationist in pneumatology, firmly fundamental in basic doctrines, not "too Calvinistic".  Some things are easy to state in a job description, others are not.  

In the end, we went with a known quantity with a long history in the GARBC and known/public commitment to all these.  I would guess that a lot of smaller churches, especially those with a lot of multigenerational families, are going to have huge issues in picking a new pastor because their list of non-negotiables is long.

I would tend to agree that in the same way many young single people have problems finding a spouse because their lists of non-negotiables are too long, many churches have trouble finding leadership because their lists of non-negotiables are too long as well.  Obviously there are a lot of people who disagree with me there.  Good luck, Mark, and I'm going to suggest your network ought to include relationship-building whereby you'll apply to the church with a few letters of recommendation coming along with your resume/CV.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

T Howard's picture

I'm not sure there is a benefit to the church of having a list of "secret requirements." If you're serious about finding the right match, you should be upfront with what you're wanting. This is especially true when it comes to doctrinal and ecclesiological issues.

Here's the tricky thing: When I was chatting with the elders where I'm now serving, they said the church holds to the Baptist Faith & Message. But, the BFM is actually a broad doctrinal statement. There's no commitment to reformed soteriology, no position on sign gifts, no preferred form of church governance other than a commitment to "democratic processes," and no stance on eschatological details. So, I had to dig deeper to get the church's "unofficial" position on these particular matters.

The elders were upfront about wanting someone who held to the doctrines of grace. In their questions, they also asked about my position on complementarianism, my philosophy of corporate worship, my understanding of the role and relationship between elders and deacons, my beliefs about church discipline, my vision for the church's involvement in missions, my views regarding resolution 9, and my and my wife's understanding of her role.

Additionally, they wanted examples of my preaching, which I had from preaching at my former church.

I will say though, that this all started with a recommendation by someone who attends my former church. His brother is one of our elders. I didn't even know he was recommending me, but without that recommendation, I would probably never have known about this opportunity nor been contacted. Relationships and personal recommendations matter.

Dan Miller's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:
My disappointment is how many churches are closed off to the idea of an older person becoming a first time pastor who didn't go through the teen youth group->bible college->youth pastor->senior pastor pathway. And how many churches looking for pastors have asked what my debt is and whether my wife works, but never asked my beliefs, or whether I can read Greek and Hebrew...

Personally, I think the WHOLE searching/interviewing/hiring process is kinda sad. 

I think our churches would be much better off if we said something like, "Yes, come, get a job and serve. After serving in the church, and after life in a small group where we really get to know you and you really get to know us, you'll have the opportunity to join the elder track. If you serve well as an elder and we decide we want you to labor all day in ministry here, then we'll transition you to paid elder." 

T Howard's picture

I'd like to see more churches identify, test, train, and ordain men from their own congregation instead of always looking for external candidates.

However, through the years I've found this proverb to be true in churches: "A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household."

The internal guy usually gets passed over because the church knows him too well.

Larry's picture

Moderator

The internal guy usually gets passed over because the church knows him too well.

Might not this be a good thing? If they know you that well and don't want to listen to you, trust you, follow your leadership, etc., it is good that you are not the pastor.

I think the problem often is that a pastor is called who isn't known well enough and when he gets there, they find out he wasn't what they thought.

I agree, in general, that it is better when the next pastor comes from the congregation. But it is not always possible for various reasons.

T Howard's picture

Larry wrote:
Might not this be a good thing? If they know you that well and don't want to listen to you, trust you, follow your leadership, etc., it is good that you are not the pastor.

Agreed. However, this attitude needs to change if the church wants to foster and encourage internal candidates. Nothing like saying, "Hey, we affirm God is calling you to pastoral ministry, but we don't want you here."

TylerR's picture

Editor

Regarding "in-house" training--the last two churches where I have served, there are almost no men. There are some, but there are very few. The churches have been overwhelmingly women. We did have a younger man whom I was training, but he got married and hiss bride politely made it clear our church was too small for them, so they left. 

Other men who come are spectators, dragged to worship by their wives.

I know a man who was very bothered by this. He used to cast about desperately, thumping the table and saying, "we need more men in this church!" I would shrug my shoulders and say, "what should I do? Conjure them up by magic?" The people who visit are sometimes younger families, but often 50+ couples. That's who the Lord has brought to our congregation. I'm fine with that. I do wish we were bursting with young families, but what can I do?

All that to say this = I like the Timothy model, and I wish I could implement it. I've come to accept that I'm going to have to network with seminaries to get an intern of sorts if I wish to do anything approaching that model.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government.

Larry's picture

Moderator

However, this attitude needs to change if the church wants to foster and encourage internal candidates. Nothing like saying, "Hey, we affirm God is calling you to pastoral ministry, but we don't want you here."

It might be that the church does not affirm a call to pastoral ministry--that is, someone has a desire but the church says, "No, we don't think you have the character and gifting."

Or it could be that it is a good guy, not just a good fit, such as a great second man in a church that needs a lead pastor. Or a great evangelism and personal discipleship pastor who struggles to speak to a larger group. Someone who might fail in one place might succeed in another place. 

Bert Perry's picture

I'm currently aware of a disaster among people I know where a church did not want to hire a man as an internal hire, but was recommending him to others.  Suffice it to say that it appears at this point to be something of a "we're going to push off our unqualified people on you."  There is probably a reason at times to match a man with a church better suited to his abilities and interests, but I have to wonder what percentage of the time it's actually some very serious character issues or interpersonal issues that ought to be resolved.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

T Howard's picture

Larry wrote:

However, this attitude needs to change if the church wants to foster and encourage internal candidates. Nothing like saying, "Hey, we affirm God is calling you to pastoral ministry, but we don't want you here."

It might be that the church does not affirm a call to pastoral ministry--that is, someone has a desire but the church says, "No, we don't think you have the character and gifting."

Or it could be that it is a good guy, not just a good fit, such as a great second man in a church that needs a lead pastor. Or a great evangelism and personal discipleship pastor who struggles to speak to a larger group. Someone who might fail in one place might succeed in another place. 

If the church does not affirm a call to pastoral ministry, that's a different situation. I'm talking about when the church affirms the calling, ordains the man, but then doesn't want him to serve the church as one of the elders / pastors. A guy grows up in the church, his gifting and calling are affirmed by the church, but he has to find another church because his church doesn't want him to pastor them.

T Howard's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

I'm currently aware of a disaster among people I know where a church did not want to hire a man as an internal hire, but was recommending him to others.  Suffice it to say that it appears at this point to be something of a "we're going to push off our unqualified people on you."  There is probably a reason at times to match a man with a church better suited to his abilities and interests, but I have to wonder what percentage of the time it's actually some very serious character issues or interpersonal issues that ought to be resolved.

I've seen a situation where a man and his wife had a heart and call for ministry, but his children were out of control. He and his wife wanted to serve as missionaries, and their pastors / elders didn't have the needed conversation with them. They assumed the missions organization would filter them out. The missions organization assumed the church had vetted them before recommending them. The couple was on the field for like 4 years before they had to return to the states to get family counseling because their kids were an absolute menace on the field.

My comments in the posts above assume the man is qualified, has been trained, and has had his gifting and calling affirmed by his church, but yet his church tells him they aren't interested in him serving the church as a pastor / elder.

Larry's picture

Moderator

T Howard, I agree with that. I think churches might be slow to have needed conversations. Piety takes over and if a man claims he is "called" we want to honor that but sometimes unwisely. 

I would still leave room for a man who is affirmed but doesn't fit the present needs of the church for some reason. That is not necessarily a problem. 

T Howard's picture

Larry wrote:

T Howard, I agree with that. I think churches might be slow to have needed conversations. Piety takes over and if a man claims he is "called" we want to honor that but sometimes unwisely.

We honor the call to pastoral ministry by testing and either affirming or not affirming the man's calling. If the Lord is truly leading a man into pastoral ministry, his desire, gifts, and character will be evident to his church. Therefore, the best thing a church can do for a man is to tell him he shouldn't pursue pastoral ministry because he is not gifted or qualified for pastoral ministry.

Larry wrote:
I would still leave room for a man who is affirmed but doesn't fit the present needs of the church for some reason. That is not necessarily a problem. 

I agree with that. However, that should be a conversation that the church leaders have with this man at the front end.

Mark_Smith's picture

T Howard wrote:

 

Larry wrote:

 

T Howard, I agree with that. I think churches might be slow to have needed conversations. Piety takes over and if a man claims he is "called" we want to honor that but sometimes unwisely.

 

We honor the call to pastoral ministry by testing and either affirming or not affirming the man's calling. If the Lord is truly leading a man into pastoral ministry, his desire, gifts, and character will be evident to his church. Therefore, the best thing a church can do for a man is to tell him he shouldn't pursue pastoral ministry because he is not gifted or qualified for pastoral ministry.

 

Larry wrote:
I would still leave room for a man who is affirmed but doesn't fit the present needs of the church for some reason. That is not necessarily a problem. 

 

I agree with that. However, that should be a conversation that the church leaders have with this man at the front end.

I wish every church was interested in helping people into ministry. I have run into many that have no interest in training men, or even encouraging them to go to seminary. I personally know many churches that have never sent a man to seminary, or encouraged him into ministry. It was all about building up the present pastor.

Larry's picture

Moderator

We honor the call to pastoral ministry by testing and either affirming or not affirming the man's calling. If the Lord is truly leading a man into pastoral ministry, his desire, gifts, and character will be evident to his church. Therefore, the best thing a church can do for a man is to tell him he shouldn't pursue pastoral ministry because he is not gifted or qualified for pastoral ministry.

Or tell him to seek training and mentorship and see if he can develop these things.

But I agree with all this. My point is that churches generally have a pietistic mindset that if "God called me," we have to agree and so we push men into ministry who shouldn't be in ministry or into certain types of ministries who shouldn't be in that type of ministry. 

However, that should be a conversation that the church leaders have with this man at the front end.

I think I agree, but front end of what? I had that conversation with someone in the not too distant past who was internal to our church and who had expressed interest in a position we were looking for. I told him that I would encourage him to pursue ministry opportunities and experience but he was not what we were looking for for this position.

So I think we largely agree. 

Mark_Smith's picture

Dave White wrote:

Churches hire pastors like the NFL hires coaches

 

Here's the thing. Most people here are likely thoughtful and the churches you attend or minister at are mature. Your church mentors men into ministry. You encourage others to grow.

I am telling you though, that with 1 notable exception, I have NEVER attended such a church. I attended a church for 13 years trying to find every opportunity to serve, to grow, to train, to get pastoral endorsement for ministry. It never came. I realized later after I left that NO ONE in 13 years had received such an endorsement... it wasn't just me. By the way, this was a 500+ average attendance church.

I have attended Southern Baptist churches that think they train people, but unless you are exactly like them, forget it. I don't mean theologically, I mean socially.

My point is to be careful assuming all churches are as good as yours in providing opportunities for men to develop in ministry.

Joeb's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

My disappointment is how many churches are closed off to the idea of an older person becoming a first time pastor who didn't go through the teen youth group->bible college->youth pastor->senior pastor pathway. And how many churches looking for pastors have asked what my debt is and whether my wife works, but never asked my beliefs, or whether I can read Greek and Hebrew...

Mark I go to a Bible Study in Trenton NJ with my Best Friend and Best Man   The participants are a mixed group of people  The one guy goes to a Church in Ewing NJ   It's called Central Baptist   Their Senior Pastor sadly out of the blue in his mid 60s had a heart attack and died   It's a former GARBC affiliated church  

The Church is right next to Trenton State University and they had a mininistry with the University   They provided Office space for Inter Varsity Reps for the School to. After the Pastor died they wanted to go to a 3 Pastor set up The positions sounded like they would have been a good fit for you.  The Downside you would of had  to move to the Trenton NJ area although Lawrence Twp has lower housing prices and reasonable property taxes for NJ and good public schools  At the time I solicited Bert a couple of times If he knew any body who might have been interested   

When I got saved 30 years ago as a 19 year old I felt like an outsider because I had not come up in the church youth group... that feeling has never left.