Caution: falling clergy!

Falling Clergy I

Why are young clergy dropping out? There’s no doubt about it. Our denominations have difficulty attracting and retaining clergy who are under forty-five. And they’re much more likely to drop out than older clergy.

Jackson Carroll says that half of young clergy are likely to doubt their call, while only 20% of clergy over 60 are only likely to doubt their call (of course that statistic isn’t too startling…even if I wanted to leave a job at 60, I’d be hesitant to do so, since that’s clearly a good time to hang on to your vocation).

But, why do half of young clergy doubt their call?

The first time I had second thoughts was when I read a report on women ministers in my denomination. The PCUSA’s not new at ordaining women. We’ve been doing it for a long time. Yet, I trembled when I held the report in my hands and saw what had been my looming fear written in black in white: women feel discrimination in the call process. They’re still much less likely to serve as a head of staff.

This was my conundrum: I liked being a solo pastor, but it was lonely. I took my vacations, but with the weddings and the funerals, I was still preaching 50+ times a year. Plus, I was the secretary, and the maintenance person, and…I was tired.

I like being an associate, especially since I have a great colleague and a truly wonderful church. But I can’t get away from that feeling like I’ve been typecast into my position. I’m young, I’m female; therefore, I must be an AP. People assume that I have a lot less experience than I actually do.

Both positions have been amazing places in which to serve. And, I never expected to become an HOS or Co overnight. But it’s been eight years, so what about another ten years down the road? Will I always be in Associate or Solo Positions? These were the questions that left me banging my head on the thick stained glass ceiling, and I began to doubt my call.

Have you ever doubted your call? Why?

photo by Sinkie, uploaded from Flickr


2 thoughts on “Caution: falling clergy!

  1. Too bad the Presbyterian Church (USA) still discriminates against the abundance of good women out there for head of staff positions. Shame on our Presbyteries and Committee on Ministries for not forcing the issue. It is hard to believe that we are still having this discussion. With over 51% of the seminary population women at this point you would think that at least 25% of the churches over 350 members would be staffed by women head of staff. Currently I believe that it is at 3%. Pathetic. So much for our platitudes about inclusivity.

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