Study of clerical careers
Religion & Liberty Online

Study of clerical careers

Courtesy of Pulpit & Pew comes Factors Shaping Clergy Careers: A Wakeup Call for Protestant Denominations and Pastors (PDF), by Patricia M. Y. Chang (HT: Mere Comments). This study is based on surveys conducted primarily with mainline Protestant denominations.

Perhaps most helpful are the observations of a minister whose denomination was not included. Here’s a brief excerpt from James A. Meek of the Presbyterian Church in America:

The ministry is a calling, not just a career, as Chang notes at the outset of her study. It is her failure in some ways to appreciate this that bothers me most about her study. While I understand the point of the pyramid-shaped “structure of opportunity,” thinking of clergy careers in this way hurts more than it helps. The pyramid accepts the view that upward mobility is the goal of clergy careers and that those who do not continue to move up have “stalled.”

For some other information about pastors, visit The Barna Group. See especially “A New Generation of Pastors Places its Stamp on Ministry,” which states, “Many young pastors are avoiding seminary due to their growing skepticism about its necessity and relevance to their ministry. Past studies have also shown that a growing number of large churches are training congregants for full-time ministry from within, rather than sending people off-campus for more traditional academic training for ministry.” Seminaries seem to be increasingly places for the academic rather than the pastoral study of theology. Even as a seminarian pursuing an academic career, I’m still inclined to think that this isn’t such a good thing.

But such analyses are interesting in part given the four offices of the church that John Calvin derived: the Presbyterian offices of pastor (preaching) and elder (disciplining), the office of doctor (teaching), and the office of deacon (caring for the poor). Schaff writes (s.v. “PRESBYTER,PRESBYTERATE,” II.2 “Calvinistic”) that Calvin “derived four offices, of which the teachers (chiefly professors of theology) are mentioned only in specifically Calvinistic ordinances,” so that the non-pastoral office of teacher is unique to Calvin.

Jordan J. Ballor

Jordan J. Ballor (Dr. theol., University of Zurich; Ph.D., Calvin Theological Seminary) is director of research at the Center for Religion, Culture & Democracy, an initiative of the First Liberty Institute. He has previously held research positions at the Acton Institute and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, and has authored multiple books, including a forthcoming introduction to the public theology of Abraham Kuyper. Working with Lexham Press, he served as a general editor for the 12 volume Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology series, and his research can be found in publications including Journal of Markets & Morality, Journal of Religion, Scottish Journal of Theology, Reformation & Renaissance Review, Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Faith & Economics, and Calvin Theological Journal. He is also associate director of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research at Calvin Theological Seminary and the Henry Institute for the Study of Christianity & Politics at Calvin University.