A concerning phenomenon is occupying the conversations of both SBC leaders and leaders of other evangelical denominations. Amidst all the controversies presented and “discussed” on social media, a growing number of people are recognizing that there is a shortage of pastors across our nation. This shortage is present in every region of the United States.
The issue is difficult for larger churches, but often it is the smaller membership churches which have the greatest difficulty in finding pastors. Many of these churches are unable to provide full time salaries or benefits, and it appears many would-be pastors are reticent to serve bivocationally. After all, bivocational pastors possess a higher-than-average risk for burnout due to working long hours at a full-time job and pastoring a congregation.
According to a recent study from Lifeway Research, the rate of pastors leaving the pulpit has been relatively stable. The majority of pastors who have left the church in the past ten years has retired (14%) followed by pastoring a different church (13%). A different study also noted that the aging post-WW2 population and the lack of young seminary students contributes to the pastor shortage.
The Caskey Center is undertaking a research project to identify the causes for the shortage with the goal of offering solutions. We realize we are not alone in this task. Over the next several months, we will post articles describing the situation. We invite feedback from readers. Perhaps the solution to this serious problem will become clear. Perhaps God will use you to point to the solution.
Jeff Farmer, PhD, serves as professor of church ministry and evangelism and he is the associate director of the Caskey Center. He oversees the research efforts of the Caskey Center and consults with smaller membership churches.