Many clergy are leaving or considering leaving ministry. Last March, Barna Research reported that 42 percent of pastors had considered quitting full-time ministry in the past year, compared with 21 percent in January 2021. The Washington Post, Sojourners, NPR, and Christianity Today have all published articles on the phenomenon. Denominations need to understand the reasons for this change and make supporting ministers a top priority.
As I talk with pastors, it is clear that many of them are not going back to their pre-Covid time schedules. They are reallocating time spent on worship, education, governance, mission, and administration to align with new, post-Covid realities. Some are doing this intentionally; others are just winging it. As a rule, intentionality will bring better results than winging it!
When I urge congregations to develop strategies to engage Millennial and Gen Z generations, someone inevitably says, “Maybe we should start a contemporary worship service to attract them.” The problem is: nothing in my research or experience leads to the conclusion that contemporary worship will attract younger generations. Indeed, is what we call contemporary worship even contemporary?
In the 20th century, many churches followed a standard staffing model. As a congregation grew in membership and mission, it added a director of Christian education, associate pastors, and a business manager, usually in that order. Today, congregations are questioning the need for all of those positions, at least as they were performed in the past.
In a time when congregations and clergy are dealing with a lot of challenging issues, there is most definitely good news to celebrate. Congregations are more open to change today than at any time in my career as a pastor and consultant. During the pandemic, we learned a great deal about ourselves personally and as congregations. One of the most important and long overdue learnings: we need to change.
As congregations start to emerge from the pandemic, a top priority is to re-establish a sense of belonging and community.
A friend of mine in Colorado says his current challenge is to reestablish “high touch” ministry. For the past two years, Hal and his staff have focused on “high tech.” They had to master technologies and related managerial strategies they never had imagined needing: livestreaming, Zoom meetings, virtually maintaining a sense of team in a staff, etc. Within the constraints of the pandemic, they struggled to remain in touch and engaged with their members. It was challenging at best. They kept up with pastoral care, but other ways of staying in touch with members often were not possible.
There are lots of ways to look at the past two years of congregational life. Many of the narratives I hear are filled with words like “surviving,” “adapting,” “stressful,” and “unrelenting change.” Today I’d like to talk about another way to view what we are going through: getting ready.