What Do We Need to Know About Young Clergy?


What do we need to know about young clergy and how they feel about the church they are entering in to serve?  With their hipster attire and MacBooks many of these newly minted pastors are running ton road blocks as they begin working in the church.  Young clergy are entering into ministry at a time when (denominational) Christianity is on the decline in America.  Keith Anderson shared some of his obeservations from the Lutheran Snyod from his bar conversations at 1:00am.  Here are his findings:

  • They love Jesus and they love the Church
  • They understand they are presiding over the death of American Christendom
  • They are okay with that
  • But they want the church and their leaders to be honest about where we are.
  • The sooner we can come to terms with our dyings, the sooner we can live into the new life that is emerging from it. Despite their concerns, they remain hopeful.
  • They yearn for authenticity and honesty in their leadership.
  • And long to be listened to, heard, and understood.
  • They are native to a culture that the church, on the whole, does not fully - or hardly - understand or engage. That doesn’t just go for parishioners. It goes for clergy, too.
  • They are never going to act or sound like previous generations of clergy.
  • They feel the church needs honest self-assessment, but feel they can’t be critical because their next job depends on the people they may critique.
  • They feel the expectations placed on younger clergy are not enforced among older clergy
  • They are finding it really hard to get second calls.
  • Some have been hurt by the church, felt unsupported, and misunderstood.
  • They are no less theologically committed than their predecessors,
  • But their work looks different and their language sounds different.
  • Many of their initiatives do not fit into existing church structures
  • This does not make them less equipped or less effective at being pastors.
  • They are worried about job security - not just about getting paid (which is not always a given) - but whether they can do the job they feel called to do in congregations that don’t want to change. Being prophetic is an attribute we laud in seminary, but it can get you fired in the parish.
  • They are drowning in student debt.
  • They are not sure it is possible to have a full career at ministry, let alone service their student debt, cover expenses, and have a life.
  • But money isn’t the most important thing to them. No one goes into ministry for the money.
  • They are frustrated by the inability or unwillingness - or both - of congregations and denominations to change. Or at least be honest about why they can’t, won’t, or don’t.
  • You can do most anything, if you feel like we are making some progress and people are in it together. Many don’t feel that way.

As a younger member of the church who is about to enter into the clergy, I hope that people will listen to my opinions with an openmind without immediately writting me off because of the fact I am "new to the game", which I have been told by few congregants as I am entering into the life of a full-time middle school youth worker.