As the 2012 United Methodist General Conference approaches, I have been trying to bite my tongue and not get too worked up about things that have not yet come to pass. With the possibility of radical changes to the church structure and the end of guaranteed appointments there have been many things that have gotten my dander up.
For as long as I have been in full time ministry, I have heard the leaders in my conference talk about the need for young clergy. To their credit, they have actively worked to recruit and support young clergy. At the same time though, I have noticed that with declining attendance and giving, we have also actively been making the compensation end of pastoral ministry less appealing to people pursuing ministry.
Teachers with only bachelors degrees often have better benefits and compensation starting out than a pastor starting in ministry. One works nine months a year with a set schedule, the other has a graduate degree, is on call 24 hours a day, works 6 days a week for 11 months of the year. As an aside, this is not to say that teachers do not deserve their compensation. I get upset when we as a society argue for the lowest common denominator. I think we should compensate our teachers well. As young people are trying to discern how God is calling them to be in ministry in the world (as United Methodists we believe we are all called to ministry) compensation will be part of that discernment process.
Pastors feel a call to ministry and we are willing to sacrifice for the mission of the church to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. I struggle though when our compensation is changing for the worse, whether we are being called to sacrifice to make disciples of Jesus Christ, or for the perseverance of the current system which is failing and cannot continue.
Yesterday I read this article about how some would like to change our current pension system. I was upset. Then I read this commentary and thought about how in the name of saving churches and making disciples, we will probably make changes to the pension system that will make ministry less appealing. I started to wonder how this will impact the decision of young people about whether they want to pursue ordained ministry or stay in ordained ministry. Could these decisions have an impact on the life of the church for generations in ways we are not counting upon in terms of young clergy?
What really gets me going is the power dynamic at play. The people making the decisions are, on a whole, the ones who have the least skin in the game. They are in positions of power and have the most protection from these decisions. Young clergy (for the most part) are not at the table and will feel the sting the most.
I think the Reverend Becca Clark summed it up best in her twitter post:
I am thankful she has a voice at the table.
Ultimately though, we do not make disciples. God makes disciples. At best, we create environments where God can work through us. God does not need the United Methodist Church to make disciples. Young adults do not need the United Methodist church to be part of God’s disciple making process.
If the church decides to end guaranteed appointments and keep the itinerancy system, if the church asks young clergy to sacrifice future security in relation to pensions, while asking the clergy who perpetuated our current troubles to not sacrifice, why should young people feeling called to ordained ministry want to be United Methodist clergy? Do we as a church want young clergy?
“Money” ©2007 Copyright Thomas Hawk. Licensed Under Creative Commons.