This morning, while reading the Star Press on-line, an article caught my attention. It gave a brief look at some of the findings from the National Congregations Study. The SP article noted that congregations are getting older, pastors are getting older, and churches are becoming more media savvy.
If you have spent any time in the modern church, this is no surprise to you. While there are a fair share of churches with younger populations (I can think of about four in Muncie), these tend to be the exception, rather than the norm. The average age of pastors is increasing. I don’t have any concrete data, but when I look at those being ordained in our Annual Conference, the average age seems to be in the 40’s. And, I think most churches and pastors are finding the benefits of technology. Websites, e-mail, media in the services all help us communicate more effectively, efficiently, and creatively.
So, if the church is getting older, what are we going to do about it? Are we shaping our ministries to attract younger generations? Or do we design our services with only ourselves in mind?
If pastors are getting older, what are we doing to recruit younger pastors. Many seminary graduates are opting to serve denominations other than the United Methodist Church. Why? Because we have a long and thorough ordination process (there are pros and cons to this). Many seminary graduates simply don’t want to jump through more hoops after graduation. This is understandable. For others called to pastoral ministry, seminary seems more like a hinderance rather than a helpful tool. They look at the course offerings and question whether or not it will actually benefit pastoral ministry. So, they end up looking for positions in denominations (or non-denominational churches) that don’t require and MDiv. Or they look for other venues of licensing. Or they simply serve in “non-pastoral” roles.
While many churches are becoming more media savvy, we still have churches and pastors who are lagging far behind. I have always believed that the Bishop should require every church in the conference to have a website and every pastor to have an e-mail account. Churches can set up free websites or blogs to serve as their home on the internet. It doesn’t have to be nice and flashy. It can simply be an information page (service times, contact information, a few upcoming events). Of course, I believe that it’s better to not have a website than one that hasn’t been updated since 2001 (I actually saw a website of a UM church in northern Indiana that listed their pastor as a guy that hasn’t been their for 5 years and their most recent events were in November of 2001). And, pastors should simply utilize e-mail (and potentially other social networking opportunities). There is so much ease of contacting people via e-mail. People can communicate their needs, questions, and such with the pastor without having an appointment or keeping the pastor on the phone for three hours. But, I know several pastors that don’t utilize e-mail (and it’s not just my senior pastor…I’ve been to several conference meetings where pastors have said, “Um, I don’t have e-mail. So, could someone send me a hard copy of that?” My answer is always, “No, we can’t. Go get a free e-mail account.”)
The National Congregations Study shares much more information than the Star Press article. If you’re interested in church data (and they have some weird stuff too), go check it out! It just might motivate you to do some things within your congregations.