According to statistics available from 2014,
There are 1418 current pastors in the Great Lakes Megaregion (consisting of 26 Nazarene districts).
Note: "Current pastors" is defined as the reporting pastor for the local church at district assembly and the one designated pastor in the district journals.
245 churches in this megaregion are without a current pastor.
The median tenure of current pastors on the megaregion is 5 years,
meaning they have been in place since 2010.
Another way to put it:
Half of the current pastors have been at their assignments
for five years or less.
57 is the median worship attendance at a church with a current pastor. (There are as many churches with current pastors with fewer than 57 in attendance as there are churches with more in attendance.) Conclusion: Small churches are normal churches.
Three out of ten (29%) current pastors have been in their local church assignment for less than two years.
Three out of ten (29%) of current pastors have been in their local church assignment for more than eleven years.
(TL;dr | Probably enough ministry grads to fill the gap of pastor-less churches, the need to connect veteran pastors with newbies, & a little something about John Maxwell and Rob Bell to tick off veterans and newbies at least a little bit, probably)
A couple of thoughts go swimming through my mind when I see these statistics.
First of all.
There are 245 churches without a current pastor. I can't speak for Eastern Nazarene College, Olivet Nazarene University, Nazarene Bible College, and Nazarene Theological Seminary though I am familiar with ministry graduates from Mount Vernon Nazarene University. These universities and graduate schools all serve districts within the Great Lakes Megaregion.
I am almost certain we didn't have more than a combined 245 graduates in 2014. We did, however, graduate enough to fill some of the missing pulpits, right? Just asking.
There are a lot of new pastors, or at least those new to their local contexts. They have been where they are for two years. I can't even remember my address in less than two years, but I've had a lot of addresses.
There are not many true veterans out there. The median tenure is five years. Anyone who has been in full-time ministry can give grin-worthy and grimace-inducing answers to the question, what could go wrong in that amount of time? But, are they really veterans yet--those who have endured the worst and the best?
True, I think a pastor on-site for five years knows the terrain. I've been in Mount Vernon for six years this summer, and there's a lot that I've learned in the past month that I didn't know before.
It's possible that a pastor on-site for five years or more FEELS like a veteran, probably with battle scars to prove it. I think serving in ministry should be counted in dog years. You know, every year in ministry should count as seven in any other vocation. A pastor might think, "I've been here for five years, but it feels like 35"--the span of an entire career for anyone else. Ready for retirement? Not yet, but at least half of pastors on this megaregion see the five-year mark as time to move on--before they've had time to smell the air.
At the other end of the spectrum, there are the same number of pastors that have been on-site for eleven years or more as there are those with two years of experience. That's difficult to comprehend: Less than two years and more than eleven make up 60% of the pastoral corps. Eleven years equals an old-timer in our Great Lakes tribe.
Eleven years--this is enough time for toddlers in the family to grow up and move on to adulthood. It's enough time to pay off a car or two. There's enough ministry experience in eleven years to know that friendships fizzle, leadership changes, and people shuffle through churches like an old pack of cards.
It is enough time to reveal real strengths in the midst of polite flattery ("Nice sermon, pastor!") as well as true weaknesses and not just someone going through a bad season ("How could giving drop $45,000 in three years?"). These discoveries not always happy or easy.
It is also enough time to have something to say to the next generation or to the pastor newly arrived.
What can we do to get these two groups together? First, I get the hesitation. Why put a grumpy, sarcastic pastor together with a newby? Secondly, why frustrate an already overworked pastor with the new guy that thinks he smells like Rob Bell? (Because of the Axe hair paste.)
Somehow we need to make this connection work between veterans and newbies. I think veterans need to know that newbies are not out to knock down the church with a wrecking ball of new ideas. They are not out to steal sheep. They are not there to make them suspicious or challenge their seniority.
Remember how awful it was that one time when the group of long-haired young people called Petra tried to bring "that rock music" into the church? Now they are fellow inductees in the Gospel Music Hall of Fame alongside Jake Hess. Let that sink in a bit before continuing.
Now, replace Petra with Rob Bell, open theism, social justice, creation care, and skinny jeans. I think it'll all work out.
Rob Bell will get old like John Maxwell, and the celebrity will fade. Fun facts: Both have good hair (um, used to?), a thing for sweaters (different styles, though), sold a load of books & left churches to do the conference circuit. Ironic, no?
Open theism will eventually be seen to fit partially though awkwardly into the Arminian half of "Wesleyan-Arminian"; social justice is just plain gospel for everyone; creation care is simply Genesis Two stewardship; and, potluck dinners will make skinny jeans obsolete. For every Stryper, there was a Petra. For every Rob Bell and John Maxwell, there is a Francis Chan. For every new idea, there's a better one yet to be thought up.
And, for each new generation there's another one coming up. Let's make a place/role/opportunity for the veterans to give the newbies a hand in the things that really matter.
Great Lakes Megaregion Map