Ten Trends on the Employment of Pastors

April 14, 2014

The verbiage is different for different churches and pastors. Some pastors speak of a call. Others, particularly in some denominations, refer to their appointment to a church. Some pastors deal with pastor search committees and congregational votes. Others receive notice from a bishop or some other authority that they are being sent to a new church.

But in all of these situations, there are disruptive trends taking place. I don’t necessarily use the word disruptive negatively; I am simply saying that practices in employing pastors are changing rapidly in the American landscape. Allow me to share with you ten of these major trends.

  1. Church consolidations mean more pastors will report directly to another pastor. The trend of smaller churches being acquired by larger churches is accelerating. Many of those smaller churches once had complete authority to call or hire their pastors. Now the larger churches make the decisions, in many cases the pastor of the larger churches.
  2. Multisite and multi-venue churches will increasingly hire more pastors. The trend of multisite churches is pervasive and growing. For the same reasons as noted in church consolidations, this trend means that many of the hiring decisions reside in the home or original church.
  3. Established churches will have greater difficulty finding pastors that meet their criteria. I see this trend particularly in pastor search committees. Their criteria are sometimes unreasonable and unrealistic. And many of their potential candidates are opting to plant a church or to work in a system of consolidated and multisite churches.
  4. There will be an increased demand for bivocational pastors. Frankly, the economics of many churches will mandate this reality, both in established churches and in church plants.
  5. More churches will partner with seminaries to “raise their own” pastors. Many pastors will thus opt to become a part of a church training or apprenticeship approach.
  6. More pastors will be gauged by their social media involvement in the pastor selection process. I have particularly noted this development from a negative perspective. A prospective pastor who is argumentative or controversial in social media is often eliminated from consideration. Social media background checks are becoming as common as legal and credit background checks.
  7. There will continue to be growth in the number of megachurch pastor position openings. This trend is fueled by two simple realities. First, the number of megachurches continues to grow. Second, many of these megachurches are led by aging boomers.
  8. Pastoral tenure will move in two different directions. I am monitoring now an anecdotal trend: increase in pastoral tenure at multisite churches. But there is an opposite trend in established churches where pastoral tenure continues to be brief and declining.
  9. Pastoral mentoring will grow. Millennials pastors seek it. Boomer pastors desire to provide it. These mentoring relationships often evolve into employment recommendations.
  10. Denominational influence on pastor placement will continue to wane. Denominational leaders and organizations were once the primary gatekeepers in recommending pastors to churches. That influence has waned significantly and will continue to decline.

How do you view these ten trends on the employment of pastors? What would you add?


photo credit: seagers via photopin cc

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77 Comments

  • Just a quick note from a forme SBC’r with friends still pastoring within the Convention – all issues of theology and methodology aside, it seems as though many churches (including those that – forgive me – fall under the category of “beggers can’t be choosers”) are also placing pretty high cosmetic demands on potential candidates for pastoral ministry. Short? You’re out. Bald? You’re out? Waist over a size 36? You’re out. Hair greying? Hit the road, Jack. Over the age of fifty? No chance. Moreover, the all-so-important Doc.Min degree is still highly regarded, particularly among non-Reformed congregations that see this as proof that one has the education to be a big-time minister, but didn’t get that fancy ThD, because everyone knows that theology doesn’t work for normal folks…

    Not trying to sound snarky in the least, brothers – just trying to get in the head of those search committees my friends have encountered, particularly in aging, rural and working class congregations..

  • Thanks, Thom! Your team’s research work is a boon to those of us in theological education.

  • I am a bi-vocational Pastor working as a Clinical Chaplain in the State Corrections Department. How do you think the demands of the Affordable Healthcare Act will impact pastoral hiring practices and do you think it will contribute to the growth in Bi-vocational ministry?

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