Our ministerial crisis has arrived

My father is a minister. He has preached for congregations in Oklahoma, California and Texas. He is now a veteran of the Gray Road Christ Church in Cincinnati.

For the first 18 years of my life, he was my minister. As a PK (preacher’s child), I have seen more than most of the great challenges faced by ministers. I have witnessed outbursts in the congregation and negative business meetings. I have seen relationships disintegrate and people leave the church.

It’s tempting to dwell on the negative.

But I have also observed wonderful things: Marriages restored. Young people come to Christ. Community issues addressed. Great awakenings.

As I enter my 32nd year of ministry, I wonder what awaits me and my colleagues. How many will still be there in the next few years?

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According to my promotion of Southwestern Christian College in 1990, only a handful of us are still in ministry. Most left for a number of reasons: Failure to connect with members. Family pressures from ministry. An inability to work with existing church leadership. Insufficient remuneration.

Sometimes I thought of doing something else. I even dabbled in other careers.

But what keeps me in ministry is the calling that God has placed in my life. Everything else I do feels out of place. I am at home in the local church with weekly preaching and teaching responsibilities. I do premarital counseling and focus on marriage enrichment. I spend time with seniors, work in the community and more.

I like it all.

Have I had dark days? Yes. Did I make bad decisions along the way? Yes. And yet, I am still here with no intention of leaving the ministry.

Related: How to recognize and deal with burnout

According to a Barna study of October 2021, 38% of ministers thought about leaving the ministry in the previous year. That was up from 29% who gave the same answer earlier in the year.

Think about it: more than 1 in 3 ministers considered leaving the ministry. This is a crisis of epic proportions. Add other issues to the equation such as the age of ministers, the physical health of ministers, and the emotional well-being of ministers, and that number is likely much higher.

“More than one in three ministers were considering leaving the ministry. This is a crisis of epic proportions. … What can we do? How can we turn the tide? How can we solve the problem in a meaningful way? »

What can we do? How can we turn the tide? How to approach the problem in a meaningful way?

Here are some suggestions:

1. Train future ministers from childhood. Creating an environment in which to serve and lead in the local church is portrayed as positively as other professions. Create programs and partnerships with other congregations to train a group of young men and women who demonstrate ministerial gifts.

2. Create avenues for women to become involved in professional ministry. With many congregations made up mostly of women, it makes sense to use their gifts in ways that don’t create controversy. Women are capable and can be effective in many areas.

Freed-Hardeman University students returned for fall semester classes.

Freed-Hardeman University students pose together.

3. Increase scholarships at colleges and universities associated with the Churches of Christ. Learning the Bible in college is much more rigorous than what is typically offered in a local church and can better equip men and women for ministry.

4. Expand how ministers are trained. Ministry training should be expanded to include organizational leadership, community shepherding, family counseling models and more.

Melvin Otey talks about

Melvin Otey talks about “Eternity 101” during a packed opening night session at Polishing the Pulpit.

5. Establish an environment where emotional and spiritual health is championed. It’s hard to lead people to a healthy place when those leading are not healthy. Every minister should be trained as a chaplain. Chaplains are educated with emotional and spiritual health first.

6. Church leaders should model healthy living. It is difficult to make decisions for a congregation when those involved do not read, attend seminars or workshops and learn from others, etc. We all need to be on a path of spiritual growth.

Scott Elliott and his family visit the Grand Canyon during his sabbatical in 2021.

Scott Elliott and his family are visiting the Grand Canyon during his sabbatical in 2021. Learn more about sabbaticals in this article by Audrey Jackson.

7. Take an annual sabbatical. Plan in your calendar at least two weeks of rest and refreshment. It’s hard for the average church member to understand the pressure on a minister to constantly be the first to fill his cup.

8. Find mentors. Look for people and congregations who are where you want to be and partner with them to help create a long-term, self-sustaining, and spiritually nurturing climate.

Let’s make 2022 the year we set goals for our ministry that include assessing the health of the church and those who lead. The worst thing a church can do is know we are in crisis and do nothing to resolve the crisis.

Sit down with your minister or leaders and honestly discuss the state of affairs and ways to improve departmental health.

Believe me, you’ll be glad you did.

JOHN EDMERSON is a member of The Christian Chronicle Editorial Committee. He is Associate Minister of Church of Christ of Figueroa in Los Angeles. He is also a well-known songwriter among the Churches of Christ.

Filed Under: Church Decline Churches Closing Discouragement Gray Road Church of Christ Ministerial Burnout Ministerial Crisis Ministers Ministry Opinion Preachers Supporting Ministers Top Stories Views Where Are All The Churches

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