Archive for January, 2008

What Do Pastors Do All Week?

If you are a pastor, has anyone ever asked you, “What do you do all week?” If you haven’t been able to before, now you have an answer. Pulpit and Pew Research on Pastoral Leadership did a study on this question and came up with the following results. The median work week for Protestant clergy is 46 hours. The following is a breakdown of the percentages:

Clergy Work Week
  1. Percentage of week spent preparing for worship and preaching – 33% – 15.18 hours
  2. Percentage of week spent providing pastoral care – 19% – 8.74 hours
  3. Percent of week spent administrating congregation’s work and attending meetings – 15% – 6.9 hours
  4. Percent of week spent teaching and training people for ministry – 13% – 5.98 hours
  5. Percent of week spent in denominational and community affairs – 6% – 2.4 hours
  6. Hours spent in prayer and meditation – 7% – 3.22 hours
  7. Hours spent reading, other than for sermons – 4% – 1.84 hours

I’d be interested in hearing what you think of this. Does this match your experience?  In general, what do you think about these numbers?

January 23, 2008 at 8:29 am 10 comments

Clergy Shortage: Perception and Reality

I hear all the time about our clergy shortage.  In fact, I see it with my own eyes.  There are churches in my district who do not have an appointed pastor.  These congregations end up being filled in any number of ways.   However, this morning at the Hartford Institute for Religion Research I read a very interesting article by Patricia Chang of Boston University about the perceived clergy shortage (long version/short version).   She describes the four important features of today’s “clergy market:”

  • There is a surplus of clergy to fill the available clergy positions.  If one looks at the number of ordained clergy compared to the number of churches in a denomination.   In some cases there are as many as two clergy per church, with seminary enrollments continuing to climb. This data contradicts the perception that there is a clergy shortage.
  • There is, however, a large vacancy rate if one looks at the actual number of clergy serving in churches.  A high number of churches are without a full time pastor. This vacancy rate supports the perception of a clergy shortage.  What the perception obscures, however, is that the shortage tends to be located in small churches.
  • The majority of churches in the U.S. are small, with 100 or fewer members.
  • The majority of the church attendees go to large churches with 350 or more members.

Chang then summarizes, “In other words the structure of opportunity provides ample jobs for those clergy interested in serving small churches but far far fewer for those wishing to serve in medium or large churches. Seminary students, most of whom were raised and formed in large churches (as are the majority of the American population) feel called to serve in the kind of churches in which they were raised – but these opportunities are declining.”

So, there’s a clergy shortage if you want to serve small rural congregations!  If you want to serve medium or larger congregations, the rumors you’ve heard of clergy shortages may have been greatly exaggerated.

Here’s the important question for United Methodists.  Should this change how we look for potential leaders?  Should we be thinking about nurturing the call among people more likely to serve in rural and smaller congregations?  Who would that be?

January 23, 2008 at 7:29 am 10 comments

Long Week

This has been a long week. I’ve been in D.Min. classes since Monday, and I think I’m mentally exhausted. Fortunately all I have left to do this week is write a sermon, go to a ministerial alliance meeting, and get ready for Sunday which technically begins next week! My class was on Christian Futuring, which is sort of a postmodern model for…you guessed it…planning for the future. It’s pretty different from strategic planning, which is the typical business model out there. This may be something that I end up using to do planning in the local Church, but I’m not comfortable enough with the concept to do that just yet. Maybe after I write my final paper for the class sometime next week. Then, once I’m an expert, I’ll charge you exorbitant fees to lead you through the process at your Church. 😉

On a completely different note, I got an email from my friend Eric who is starting a blog. You’ll find it here or over there under Oklahoma Bloggers. Hope you take time to drop by and read some of his stuff. He’s a really sharp guy, and I’m sure you’ll find some things that pique your interest.

January 18, 2008 at 9:31 pm Leave a comment

Missional-Incarnational Impulse

If you are interested in thinking about the ongoing mission of the Church in this century, you really have to read The Forgotten Ways by Alan Hirsch. This is a book that I will almost certainly read twice, which is something I almost never do. It is really causing me to rethink, in a positive constructive (heck, even Wesleyan) way, many of the assumptions I have about the way we go about mission and ministry within the United Methodist Church.

At the center of what Hirsch calls the “Apostolic Genius” is the central affirmation that Jesus is Lord. Surrounding that center element are five aspects of mDNA (missional DNA): Disciple Making (which is what my last post was about), Missional-Incarnational Impulse, Apostolic Environment, Communitas, Not Community, and Organic Systems.

In chapter 5, he discusses the Missional-Incarnational Impulse, the second aspect of mDNA. Patterned on the “missionary God” (as described by Darrell Guder), he suggests that “a genuine missional impulse is a sending rather than an attractional one (p. 129).” Like the Incarnation of God in Jesus, we’re called to move into the neighborhoods around us in mission rather than operating from the “outreach and in-drag” model that the Church operating from a Christendom model is built for (p. 61).

Hirsch describes at least four dimensions that frame our understanding of the incarnation, and he believes these should profoundly shape our response to the ongoing mission of God:

  1. Presence: In Jesus, God is fully present to us. Jesus is no substitute or intermediary, but God in the flesh.
  2. Proximity: God approached us in Christ in a way we can understand and access, befriending the outcast and living close proximity to the broken and lost.
  3. Powerlessness: In the incarnation, God took the form of a servant. Hirsch writes, “He does not stun us with sound and laser shows, but instead he lives as a humble carpenter in backwater Galilee for thirty years before activating his messianic destiny,” showing us how love and humility reflect the true nature of God.
  4. Proclamation: He initiated the gospel invitation, heralded the reign of God, and called people to respond in repentance and faith.

In these four aspects of the incarnation, we find the following calls for our work together with God in mission (these are just snippets of what Hirsch describes):

  1. Being present in the fabric of a community, engaging in the humanity of it all. All ministry is relational and based in our particular local presence. “…Jesus actually liks to hang out with the people we hang out with. They get the implied message that God actually likes them (p. 134).”
  2. Like Jesus we’re called to be in proximity to folks from every level of society. This involves genuine avaliability, spontaneity, and regular friendships and community.
  3. We too are called to powerlessness: humility and servanthood to each other and with the world. This is an integral aspect of church, leadership, and mission.
  4. Genuine incarnational approaches to mission will result in our proclamation of the gospel story with the people we engage. “We are essentially a ‘message tribe,’ and that means we must ensure the faithful transmission of the message we carry through proclamation”

He goes on to provide specific examples in faith communities of the missional-incarnational impulse.

I have a lot of questions for my fellow United Methodists. Every now and then I get messages saying, “Do you want to have a knock-down, bang-up method form mission and discipleship? Come to this or that conference. This will work in churches of any size, shape, or fashion!” Are we kidding ourselves to think any method is one size fits all (OK, I know you know where I stand on this, so it’s a leading question. haha)?

How can we encourage our congregations to moving from “outreach and drag-in” to incarnational gospel presence within communities sharing the message of Christ relationally?

What kind of influence do our largest UM Churches have on our plans for carrying out God’s mission? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-megachurch, but should churches in communities of 1,000 or even 5,000 base their approach to mission on something happening in a large urban or suburban congregation?

How do we, like Christ, move into the neighborhood? I did hear of a pastor and his congregation who held a block-party in their small-town community among a group of unchurched people. I think this embodies a lot of what Hirsch is saying. What do you think?

January 12, 2008 at 10:09 am 3 comments

Missional Methodism & Rigorous Discipleship

One of the books I recently bought is really good and thought-provoking. The Forgotten Ways: Reactivating the Missional Church by Alan Hirsch is a book I’ve been wanting to read for a long time. Turns out it was worth the wait. I’m only about a quarter of the way through the book, but so far I’ve been mesmerized by Hirsch’s description of mDNA (missional DNA, not to be confused with mRNA – messenger RNA – sorry, science humor). I’ve really been too engaged in the book so far, even when I disagree, to underline anything so far.

However, this passage is too important for us United Methodists to leave alone.

In the opinion of Stephen Addison, a missiologist who has spent much of his professional life studying Christian movements, the key to Methodism’s success was the high level of commitment to the Methodist cause that was expected of participants. This cause declined to the degree that the movement had moved away from its original missional ethos or evangelism and disciple making and degenerated into mere religious legalism maintained by institution, rule books, and professional clergy (p. 103).

He goes on to talk about the catechesis of the early Church,

…far from being “seeker-friendly,” by AD 170 the underground Christian movement had developed what they called the catechisms. These were not merely the doctrinal confessions they later became; they involved rigorous personal examinations that required the catechumen to demonstrate why he or she was worthy of entry into the confessing community. Not only could proposed converts lose their life, because of the persecution of the time, but they had to prove why they believed they should be allowed to become part of the Christian community in the first place!

…it was this element of vigorous discipleship that characterized the early Christian movement that was blighted by the deluge of worldliness that flooded the post-Constantinian church when the bar was lowered for membership and the culture was “Christianized.” (p. 104)

To be honest, I have totally mixed reactions to this. The concept of proving oneself worthy of joining the Christian community strikes me as a little antithetical to a gracious understanding of God. However, I do think that the concept of rigorous discipleship, as shown in early Christianity and Methodism, is incredibly important. For instance, the other night my wife was watching this stupid show about becoming a Dallas Cowboy cheerleader on CMT. They kept saying how important their identity was, and several girls didn’t make the team because they either didn’t live up to the values of the team or they didn’t have a certain level of commitment. I thought to myself, how is it that the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders have more rigorous set of practices and ideals than the Church?!

But that’s the tension isn’t it? Christ died and is risen for all, right? So how do we balance inspiring committed discipleship with the message of God’s free grace? Also, do you agree with Hirsch’s comment about legalism maintained by institutions, rule books, and professional clergy? Is that what United Methodism has become or not? How could the UMC become a Church that more fully embodies full-bodied discipleship?

Hopefully these questions can initiate a conversation in the comments. What are some of your first impressions?

January 9, 2008 at 1:51 pm 5 comments

McKnight’s Series on the Kingdom

Just a quick note – if you’re not already reading Scot McKnight’s blog, then shame on you – it’s far better than what you’ll find here!  🙂  He’s starting a series that’s sure to be interesting on Kingdom and the Church.  The first post is here.  Keep going back for more!

January 7, 2008 at 7:20 am Leave a comment

First Books of 2008

Kevin Watson over at Deeply Committed has a post about the first five books he’ll read in 2008. So, I thought I’d share my first five for 2008 too. I’m a book geek too, so my family got me either books or Amazon gift cards! Some of these are for my upcoming D.Min. class (the last three), but the other two are just things I’m interested in.

There are more on the shelf waiting to be read! I saw where Trevin Wax has some suggestions for meeting his goal of reading 100 books a year. I can see reading two books a week, but I think the cost would be outrageous unless you had a really good library nearby.

Happy reading!

January 4, 2008 at 3:20 pm 6 comments

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