From Hacking Christianity. Used by Permission
In United Methodist circles, all the rage a few months ago was to talk about the Death Tsunami: the passing on of the Greatest Generation and the retirement of the Baby Boomers and how that will precipitously drop the generosity and involvement of the laity in the United Methodist Church. FEAR.
While I’m realistic about what effect finances has on churches, there’s other problems that are even more distressing to me. I think the real Death Tsunami will be the death of theological education for our clergy and church leadership.
And the plans are already in place and taking shape.
In Oklahoma, one of the Conference boards heard a presentation a few months back on the effect the financial situation of our churches might have on appointments. Since all most board meetings are open, this is public information and it’s okay that you read this.
Because of the financial situation with health care costs and clergy pensions and the death tsunami, appointments might start to look like this:
- If your church budget is over $160,000, then you will likely be assigned an ordained Elder.
- If your church budget is between $80,000-160,000, then you will likely be assigned a Local Church Pastor
- If your church budget is under $80,000, then you will likely be assigned a Part-Time Local Pastor
In Oklahoma, we have ~550 churches. If this plan takes shape, let’s see where they break down on this spectrum.
- There are about 200 churches whose budgets are over $160k. That means the conference has need only of about 250 full clergy (given associate positions in larger churches…I’m an Associate over Student Ministries, for example). We currently have about 350 clergy, a ‘surplus’ of 100 seminary-trained clergy.
- There are about 100 churches with budgets between $80k-160k. This means the conference has need of about 100 local pastors. We currently have about 60 local church pastors, a need for 40 local pastors.
- Finally, there are 250 churches with budgets under $80k who would be served by part-time local pastors. Currently many of these are served by full-time clergypersons who have multiple-point charges, plus about 50 part-time local pastors. These appointments would be replaced completely by bi-vocational part-time local pastors, of which we need ~200.
Obviously, these are not hard-and-fast rules (the Bishops have full appointment power…and likely after GC will be able to dismiss clergymembers more easily), but they might become the general guidelines of what different-size churches can expect.
Why write about this? If I were a young clergyperson looking at this plan, here’s what I would say to myself: “Why Go To Seminary?” Local Pastors don’t need seminary and get health insurance, everything sacramental authority-wise that Elders get…and are in demand. Full Elders are expensive to local congregations, they have the cost of Seminary behind them…and there’s more Elders than Churches that can sustain them. Add to that the assault on seminary education by the arch-conservatives, and there’s little support to (a) get a seminary education and (b) become a full Elder until later in life when “they can make it, tiger” in the larger churches.