Job Creation in the Presbyterian Church (USA)

[image by .aditya.]

It’s been about 15 years since I have had to do it, but a year after leaving my last church, I have finally updated my Personal Information Form (PIF) – For you non-Presbyterians, a PIF is our resume – While I would love to turn this post into a “Back in my day PIF’s allowed for answers longer that 1,500 characters!” rant, I shall restrain myself.

As I get ready to submit my PIF to places where I feel there might be some kind of call possibility, I am keenly aware of the step up that my age and experience give me overother candidates . . . especially those who have graduated from seminary over the past few years.  I have 17 years of ordained experience, have have been building relationships over that time and yeah, being Moderator just might help with the name recognition in our small part of the religious world.

Sure, one could argue that my ministry experience validates my consideration over some other folks, but the fact still remains that we have many talented and passionate seminary trained folks who are ready to serve, but simply are not able to find a call. There is much debate over why this is the case: increased geographic limitations, churches no longer able to support full-time ministers, churches who will not even consider some candidates, candidates who will not even consider some churches, supply and demand, survival of the fittest, etc.

You choose the reason, someone will back you up, but the problem still remains . . . folks ready to serve in ordained ministry and no place to do so.

So what do we do?

Jack Jenkins – yes THAT Jack Jenkins – in a recent post offers up one possibility. Basically find a low-cost way to release people into ministry.  It’s an interested idea . . .

What if you gave these kids either (a) health insurance (b) anywhere from $5,000 (realistically) to $15,000 (idealistically) or (c) both to work 10-20 hours a week (depending on the pay) to start a “worship community.” Note: these would not necessarily HAVE to be ordained positions, at least not at the start. They wouldn’t necessarily officiate the sacraments (although they could), and “membership” would be more loose of a category. They’d meet in whatever they could find, from coffee shops to church basements to living rooms (which would drive down costs). They could be running groups that also pray, or a jam session that doubles as a worship hour; think things that go beyond traditional conceptions of “church” as something that needs a power bill and a robed choir. They could even be encouraged to move to a low-income/high-need area to try a church, a la Teach for America (or, as a friend up here put it, “Preach for America.” Get it?). [read full post]

I am not sure if this idea will gain any traction – though I am obviously trying to give it a little with this post – but it does offer one interesting solution. Sure, there would be many details to hammer out around issues like supervision, affiliation and probably the biggest questions, “Who gets to be in this group?” but I do not see anything that makes this idea outside the realm of possibilities.

Basically, I think this is a great idea.

So here is my hope . . . maybe a presbytery or group of pastors will begin to think a little more broadly about how to unleash the many folks who are yearning to serve, have been given the training that we value and, most importantly, have been certified ready to receive a call by a body who sees them set apart for this form of ministry.  Maybe it will be Jack’s idea or maybe it will be a modification of some other model that already exists or maybe it will be . . .

Whatever the future holds for the ministry, we must listen for God’s push and pull into new ways of living it and then get out there and actually do it.

This was reposted from my column on The Presbyterian Leader.


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