Feed the octopus

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Consider these facts, regarding the Presbyterian Church:

(1) Forty percent of our pulpits are empty.

(2) Out of the recent seminary graduates, there were 100 more candidates than jobs.

So what’s one proposed solution?

(3) Close down two seminaries.

WHAT?? Where is our vision? We have the pastors, we have the congregations, we just don’t have the money to pay the pastors.

The church is like a giant octopus. The heads of these magnificent creatures are our ministers. Our greatest assets are the men and women who work hard and give their lives in service to our church. We’ve all seen churches transform with vital pastoral leadership, but we’ve rarely seen them transform without it.

So, if we want our churches to thrive, we can’t let the center shrivel away. We have to feed the octopus head. We can go back to the necessities, and put money into training and supporting our pastors.

How about this for a solution instead?

Since we’re going to be closing almost half of our churches in the decade ahead, let’s plan for an all out liquidation sale right now. All of our Presbyteries can come clean with their assets. They can pull out all of the money that they’ve been hiding under the mattress, sell their property, and hand over the camps that haven’t been turning a profit for the last ten years. They can close a few of the churches, and sell the real estate for the best possible price. (We can resist the temptation to sell an incredibly expensive property to another worshiping community for the lowest amount possible. That pentecostal church is just going turn around and make a killing off of it. And our church is relying on that money.)

Then, when we have the pile of money, we can’t fight over it or let it to go under the mattress again! The octopus is hungry. We’ve got to put that money to work. We can invest it and use the interest (we could also invest some of the principal in real estate for pastors, but that’s for another post). We can use it to start new church developments. And we can put money into helping the some of the churches that cannot afford pastors, the ones that

(1) are in demographically growing areas,

(2) are in job markets that can support a spouse’s employment,

(3) are healthy congegations, or

(4) have clergy available in the area.

I know it seems impossible and some of it seems heartless. But we are in an exciting, crucial moment. It’s time to have some vision for what’s possible.

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