Why is the preacher population dwindling and what can we as associations do about it? Initially might I say that the decreasing preacher population has perhaps more to do with individual wiring of called ministers today. During the formative years of my individual calling once the Lord had shown Himself clear, there was a spirit of daring and an undeniable sense of God’s hand on ones life from the initial moment of the call through out the very present day in which I am serving. God has not left me, but has looked out for me. God has not evaded my needs, but has empowered my calling to reach high and go boldly where ever He has called. Let’s look at some of the issues in today’s minister:
1. There is a growing sense of failure and the fear that goes with potential failure as a minister.
There is a growing sensitivity with college students entering the ministry that the local New Testament church has become locked into its traditional form and remains unwilling to innovate. I have a son, which is a Youth Minister of a fast growing church and youth ministry in the Atlanta area. While sure of his calling and a willingness to be used of God, he lives with a mindset that he desires to spend his life in ministries that make noticeable strides towards reaching the kingdom. While only a little over a quarter of a century old he has had offers to leave his present church but remains firmly devoted to the church he serves. This is primarily because of a great pastor who has his back as my son continues to learn and his individual desire to serve in a ministry where creativity and fresh ideas as well as thinking is valued. Younger ministers are not interested in wasting their efforts on churches that might bring failure due to an unwillingness to innovate and create through a willingness to change. Part of the shortage created, is individual ministers, which are the young cream of the crop fleeing from any ministry, which squelches creativity and innovation.
As a result of many churches inability to embrace creativity and innovation these younger ministers who do sense an unshakeable call to ministry, often look first to healthy Para-church organizations or aggressive church planting mission agencies. The reality is that these future pastoral giants are hanging out with like-minded future leaders and dreaming of a new church, which they will launch together. They are developing mission statements, strategy designs, church names and logos all in preparation for launching a healthy New Testament Church. Some would rather work part time jobs than to serve in a church, which refuses to embrace the new culture in which it is located. Here is the blunt reality, which laymen must prayerfully hear: today’s new younger minister simply believes that they could not survive in an average church so it is this reality and fear that pushes them to seek other alternatives besides the local church.
2. There is a growing lack of connection by present lead pastors with young people within their church.
Now before you turn me off pastor, when was the last time you actually sat down at a youth function and listened to and spoke with the average teenager? Here is the challenge in a nutshell: The lack of exposure to the lead pastor leads most youth to feel a sense of disconnection from the key pastor of the church. Certainly church youth are connected with the youth minister and other youth ministry leaders, yet feeling a connection with the primary pastor/preacher is lacking. I know that I sensed a call to ministry through conversations with my High School pastor in Naples Florida growing up. Dr. Freddie Smith took the time to hang with us and allow us to ask hard questions, dumb questions and critical questions for the formation of our individual calling into ministry. The result was in that wonderful church there were young people who became missionaries, church planters and preachers. Brother Freddie did not spend all of his time with young people, but he spent enough time with all of us.
It is my belief that his time with all of us is why we felt a holy comfort and urging to the call to become pastors and preachers. We saw the effort required and we sensed the individual rewards that came to ones spiritual life by serving as a pastor. We were given a portrait of a successful pastor and could consider if this was part of our calling into ministry. Brother Freddie also was not shy about giving an invitation to make a commitment to enter full-time Christian ministry. He knew how to call out the called and he did just that. The pull of the Lord is lost when we eliminate the time necessary to hangout with today’s youth.
3. There is a growing fear of male ministers that their potential wives will refuse to serve in a church ministry that might create a dysfunctional family atmosphere.
Many spouses fear the idea of being a minister’s wife. Even my wife Cheryl had to pray long and hard about being a minister’s wife before she would answer my question about marriage. She loved me certainly. Yet she had seen the way some local churches chew up some ministers and their families and was not sure she could handle this stress. My wife is very committed to the local church but she is not called to be the WMU director or the piano player for the local church. She could just run at the fear of being swallowed up by the church to do all of the things that no one else wanted to do within the church. Younger ministers have a fear that a church will speak less than forth rightly to get them there and then dump on the family all of the things no one else wants to do. My wife did not want to fit into that mold and most young ladies are also feeling that same way. For this reason, young men who sense a call to ministry often are afraid to make that information public.
They want what all of their friends want—to fall in love, stay in love, and raise kids into full-blown followers of Jesus Christ. The pulpit seems to be a dangerous place for the man who wants to be fully present and fully engaged with his family. Therefore, it seems more doable to dive into a less pressurized position of ministry and avoid the pitfalls of being the preacher.
Let’s think about that and begin doing something about it! If you would like to have conversations related to this blog post, why not drop me a line so we can begin your journey and conversation.
You can connect with Dr. Tom Cheyney and the RENOVATE Church Revitalization Virtual Coaching Network additionally via Facebook at RENOVATE Conference. Tom is the co-author of Spin-Off Churches (B&H Publishers), a conference speaker and a frequent writer on church planting, new church health, and church revitalization. Be looking for The Biblical Foundations for Church Revitalization by Tom Cheyney and Terry Rials later this year. If you or your church would like more information you may contact him at Tom@renovateconference.org, or firstname.lastname@example.org.