Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Crisis of Younger Clergy

By Lovett Weems, Jr & Ann Michel

We have all noticed that there are far fewer young adults in our churches. What many may not have noticed is that the number of young clergy, those under 35, are declining at an alarming rate.

If you want your eyes opened to a situation that could be critical to the future of the church then this book is well worth the time to read. It will challenge the way all parts of the church need to look at how we are handling our new and younger members of the clergy.

The book is based on data from a study done by the Lewis Center for Church Leadership at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington DC. The number of young clergy has been decreasing for years and while that seems to have leveled out, it is still a concern for a number of reasons. The reduced number of clergy is reflecting the lower number of young people in youth and young adult programs in our churches.

One of the major considerations is the entry process that is used for new clergy entering the system in the United Methodist Church. There are a number of those entering seminary that are not willing to put in the years for seminary and then an extended time before ordination. The costs of seminary, lack of financial support and low starting salaries is also a major factors in loss of young clergy.

Many pastors graduating today are out of churches that have no relationship with the churches that they are being asked to serve in first appointments. Traditionally the majority of pastors came out of small rural churches and their first appointment was in a similar church. Today many of the pastors are entering the system from urban or larger suburban churches but are still being assigned to small rural churches with whom they have trouble relating. A part of the gap is a generation different in these first appointments.

There is also the problem that many of our young pastors are expected to bring in young people to the church but the church body is not prepared or willing to receive them. With many clergy leaving seminary with more than $30,000 in debt salaries are a large part of the problem as well.

We cannot afford to continue to watch our young clergy leave the denomination or expect those that remain in the system to save it. This book addresses these issues and more and will open your eyes to new insights on the state of the church today.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Fusion: Turning First-time Guests into Fully-Engaged Members of Your Church

By Nelson Searcy

I have been reading a lot about radical hospitality lately. The church needs to learn to not only attract new people into the church but learn to assimilate them into the life of the church. Too often we do things to encourage visitors to the church and then don’t know what to do with them when they come and the leave and we never see them again.

This book is a simple read with a simple system to assimilate guests (not visitors) into the life of the church and move them to active members of the church. Most of what is here is so simple that you will find yourself asking why didn’t I think of that.

One quote that really got my attention was “When your second-time guests walk through your door, they unknowingly come face to face with a fork in the road. Four to six months from that moment, they will either be assimilated into your church or they will be gone.” What are you doing with guests at your church?

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations

Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations
By Robert Schnase

Bishop Schnase in this work tells us the church must focus on Radical Hospitality, Passionate Worship, Intentional Faith Development, Risk-taking Mission and Service and Extravagant Generosity in order to be about the business of making disciples for Jesus Christ.

As a Natural Church Development Coach (NCD) I found this volume intriguing since it uses many of the same thought processes about focusing the church and helping it to move in a new direction. It would make a great study for a local church trying to refocus its ministry. If you want to learn what some key points are in being a disciple making congregation then this book is worth the read. I am thinking about using it as a study in my church for a foundation in renewing ministry and growth.