Too Many Clergy?

Church JobsHow many clergy are too many?  I don’t have an answer, but do think the question is important to discuss at all levels of the church.

I have heard from several colleagues and from members of search committees just how different the search process has become in recent years.  Perhaps this is why (or at least a part of the reason why):

In the 1950s there were roughly the same number of ministers as there were U.S. churches. Now there are almost two ministers for every church, according to the latest Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches—607,944 ministers and 338,713 congregations.

So What?

While there has been a significant growth in large and even megachurches over the last several decades, the majority of U.S. congregations still have average worship attendance of less than 100 each week.  Put differently, it is reasonable to estimate that the number of clergy exceeds the current market demand.

  • Would you ever advise someone considering attending seminary and pursuing ordination to reconsider on the basis of the current situation and/or the projected decline in the number of clergy that will likely be needed in the future? Why or why not?
  • Do you think the idea that ministers are primarily focused on seeking employment for which one needs to be ordained is an outdated way to consider the employment marketplace for pastoral positions? Explain.

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