by Kent Annan
Presbyterian Church (USA) pastors aren’t yet the subject of
multimillion-dollar bidding wars like, say, a star centerfielder. But
there is a decreased supply, and, thus, an increased demand. Yes, there
are fewer pastors in the denomination now than there were 10 years ago.
But it’s not just that there are fewer pastors available. It’s also that
most pastors don’t want to play for the Montreal Expos—that is, small
The Reverend Marcia Clark Myers (Class of 1979), associate director of
churchwide personnel services for the Presbyterian Church (USA), is quoted
on the denomination’s web site as saying, “There is not a shortage of ministers
in the Presbyterian Church.” She says there are 14,000 active ministers of word
and sacrament. The problem is ministers aren’t going to smaller congregations.
More than 3,000 of the denomination’s 3,897 congregations currently without installed pastors have 100 members or less.
No matter the cause, having almost 4,000 churches without pastors requires
- 11.5% of pastors are under age 40
- 50% of pastoral candidates are under age 40
- From 1994 to 1999 there was an increase of 319 clergywomen
serving congregations as pastors and associate pastors. During the same
period, there was a decrease of 993 clergymen serving congregations as pastors
and associate pastors.
- 54% of pastoral candidates are women
- 18% of pastoral candidates are racial-ethic
Myers suggests the denomination should work to create a more positive
climate for pastoral ministry, encourage ministers to be open to a call to
pastoral ministry, and employ creativity to see that churches are served
The result of the denomination’s unfortunate problem has been somewhat
positive for candidates for the pastorate. Dean Foose, Princeton
Seminary’s director of alumni/ae relations and senior placement, says the
market turned in favor of pastors in about 1996.
The result, for many, has been abbreviated job searches and higher
Pastors now tend to have a short wait for a call after they have gone
through the approval process and circulated
their Personal Information Forms (PIFs). Unless holding out for, as an
example, a specific geographical location, finding a church now tends to
take two to four months.
In 2000, some Presbyterian churches started raising their compensation
packages. The range between the lowest and highest paying churches used to
be about $10,000, but as churches have sought to make themselves more
attractive to candidates, the range has grown to about $20,000, mostly in
housing allowances to make up for cost of living differences.
“My spin on this,” says Foose, “is that the fact that fewer people are
preparing for pastoral ministry is not a negative thing. We happen to have
hit a shortage of pastors for mainline churches, but there’s a certain
cyclical nature to this. The ’50s, for example, were a heyday. About 80
percent of Princeton students were preparing for pastoral ministry then.
About 60 percent go into pastoral ministry now.”
So where do Princeton alums go after graduation if they don’t all head to
Of the 162 M.Div. graduates in the Seminary’s Class of 2000, 12 became
pastors; 45 became associate pastors; 16 were in pursuit of a call; 6
became missionaries, chaplains, or joined specialized ministries; 37 went
on to various graduate programs and seminaries for Ph.D.s, Th.M.s, L.L.D.s,
etc. (and at least four of those have since taken calls in churches); 4
went into Christian education; 7 took internships; and 7 went into
non-ministry work. Another 28 were not reported.
“PTS,” says Foose, “was founded to prepare men—and now
women—for pastoral ministry. Now it prepares people to think theologically about
life and the world. It prepares them for all kinds of ministry. And the
centerpiece continues to be pastoral ministry.”