What we must do to head off a shortage of pastors and missionaries in this decade.

Are we facing a clergy shortage in the coming decade? Probably. And the need is greater than ever: A new generation of evangelists, church planters, and skilled pastors is needed to sustain the evangelical expansion of the last 30 years. Missions executives worry about replacing those who will soon be retiring from the field. And there is a dearth of well-prepared pastors to shepherd the churches being planted at an astounding rate in the ethnic and minority communities of the U.S.

What will cause the predicted shortage? Impending retirements are part of the answer. Several denominational executives report that 35 to 40 percent of their active ministers will reach retirement age by the year 2000. And clergy attrition rates have increased because of the rising expectations of congregations, obsolescence, fatigue, and frustration.

Why are replacements so hard to find? Although evangelical seminaries have shown remarkably steady growth, many schools are experiencing enrollment plateaus, and graduation rates have not kept up with expansion. Moreover, much of the growth in seminary enrollments has not come in basic pastoral preparation, but in continuing education, specialized master’s degrees, and preparation for biblical and theological scholarship.

What must be done to avert the clergy shortage?

Clergy attrition can be reduced if churches insist on continuing education for pastors. Sabbaticals, study leaves, and access to centers for pastoral renewal can help. Bivocational careers, combining “gainful employment” and ministry service, need to be encouraged. Seminaries must become more hospitable to women, minority persons, and people ...

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