The Future of Mennonite Pastors?

Through a variety of observations and conversations, I believe, we, as Mennonite Church Canada, have a lead pastor problem.  When those love-able baby boomers ever decide to retire (at 67 now?), there are going to be a lot of churches looking for lead pastors.

I know that our church conference pays people much smarter (and tactful) than me to look after these kind of things.  But there is one little thing observation, I think, that might going under the radar.

Let’s back up the boat up a bit.

Here in Mennonite Church Manitoba (MCM), we have something called Youth Ministry Fellowship.  Basically, all the people who work in youth ministry (usually paid pastors) get together every month or two to share, pray, eat, laugh, cry, plan and keep each other sane.

I have been attending these meetings for the past 7 ½ years, and they are one of the most life giving meetings I’ve been a part of.

Over my 7 ½ years of attending, I have seen approximately 25 different people come and go through those meetings.

And of those 25 or so, how many do you think ended up as senior/lead pastors at MCM congregations?

Three.

Just you so can read that again… Three.  3/25. That’s 12%.

That means that 88% of young pastors (generally under 35 with a university education who both love God and the church enough that they are willing to give up their weekends at the cabin) have not transitioned to lead pastors.

Now, I know that many of them stay as youth or associate pastors, change careers, find out that being a pastor isn’t just working one hour a week on Sunday, find out they don’t like being a pastor, etc. (Of special note, a certain segment have actually ceased going to church entirely.  From pastor to ECO (Easter/Christmas only) in 5 years.  That’s worth another thread someday).

But 88% of youth pastors not becoming lead/senior pastors?

If any of our churches simply thought: “Oh, the replacement for Pastor Baby Boomer is across the hall”, or “Oh, the replacement for Pastor Baby Boomer is a youth/associate pastor at a different church”, they have a 12% chance of being right.

So, my next couple of posts will be contemplating some thoughts on this.

1)      Change the job description (and expectations) of being a senior pastor

2)      Look elsewhere than youth pastors to replace lead/senior pastors

3)      Congregations finding new ways to both engage God and God’s people.

And as someone who hasn’t decided which side of that 88/12 split I want to be on, I look forward to the conversation.

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A pivotal moment

Something happened yesterday that may change the course of my life.  And believe it or not, it happened at a church meeting.

I was at a Spiritual Guidance meeting (a group from our church that sets the tone for the congregation, does long-term visioning, encourages spiritual growth, etc) last night.  We were discussing the ever so life-giving topic of membership and baptism and covenant renewal (I’ll spare you the details, as they are quite unimportant to the story).

In the middle of a life-giving conversation, our lead pastor looked around at the those of us under 35 and said, “Well, I don’t want to impose my way of things. I grew up a certain way, and I am learning that my way doesn’t always work with the realities that we face today.”

And then my heart stopped.

And I got scared.

Let’s back the boat up even more. I started being a pastor at age 22 at a church where people over 50 made all the decisions.  The church had a history of being set in its ways and expecting people to conform to their worldview, and didn’t like people rocking the boat.

I, being a tad cocky and arrogant at times, loved rocking the boat.  And rock the boat I did.  I would challenge and push and prod people all the time, knowing that if I told them they should move a foot, they’d move an inch, and I would call that success.  I could more or less say whatever I wanted, because I knew it would never happen.

Yesterday wasn’t dissimilar.  I was on a tangent, passionately speaking about something or another.

But then, after our lead pastor made that comment, I realized something.

What I am saying might actually happen.

Holy Crap… Is that what I really want?  If I want the church to move 12 inches, am I ready to stick my neck out?  Do I know what I’m saying?  Is it worth the conflict?

What I say actually matters.  People actually listen to me.  And might just follow (or not follow) me in a lot of ways.

And this changes everything.

No longer can I be the antagonistic bugger, knowing that most people will only move an inch.

I must lead a tad more carefully… Hopefully there isn’t too steep a learning curve.

Mukluks vs. War and the Old Testament

On Sunday, I kept a running tally in my head of what would get more comments:  My mukluks or my sermon (on War and Old Testament).

By the time the service started, the mukluks were ahead by a score of 4-1.  However, the sermon finished strong and pulled through in the end, winning 12-6.

Considering that I touched on God choosing to partner with humans, on genocide of the Canaanites, on how afters years of “empire”, the Israelites were back where they started as slaves by a river, and emphasized that God’s involvement with war points to God choosing to partner with us, I consider this success.

People were excited about my willingness to tackle a hard portion of Scripture, I had at least 10 requests for more information, people were texting me questions that I have to address in a few weeks time, and I have a few coffee dates lined up for further discussion.

But perhaps, most importantly, I am belong to a phenomenal church.  A church that doesn’t require us to check our brains at the door.  A church that asks good questions, allows people to disagree, and places a high value on relationships between people as they figure out what it means to be faithful to God.

So, while the mukluks were sad that they lost the comments competition, this gives me hope for the church.

And now on to War and the New Testament!