Summer/Fall 2002
Volume 7 Number 1






Preaching That Fosters "Ecclesial" Identity | Giving Voice to the Gospel | When Your Calling Is Pastor | Ex Nihilo | Where Have All the Pastors Gone?

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 churches.

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 some correction.
Snapshot of
Presbyterian Pastors
  • 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 appropriately.

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 salaries.
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 churches?

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.”

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last updated 06/25/02