As a young Christian woman who has felt the call to ministry I have an unique perspective when it comes to the issue of a clergy shortage in the United States. While some denominations are flourishing in certain parts of the country others are circling the drain. As a United Methodist living in rural Iowa, I know the pain of that clergy shortage all too well. 17 churches in my conference are listed as a delayed appointment. They have no full time clergy.
Some ask why I haven't started the process, entered candidacy, and taken over at one of these churches. And while part of the answer is that I'm still in college, taking 17 credit hours a semester, there are five big reasons that I am opposed to entering into vocational ministry. Here are five reasons that young people are not entering into ministry right away.
1. We live in a fishbowl.
You've heard of the fishbowl, right? If you are a pastor's kid you know it all too well. Everyone is watching your every move. Whether or not you make the right one or the wrong one, someone will always have something to say about it. Oh, and don't worry, it's only nearly impossible to date.
2. Our discipline, let's face it, is kind of outdated.
While yes, I do agree with 95% of our churches discipline, I do not agree with all of it. I won't tell you where I draw the line, or where my tipping point hit in a matter of understanding why literally none of my peers want to answer the call they feel. But lets face it, society has moved past some things that used to be "taboo". Yet our churches still look at them and think of it as one of the seven deadly sins.
3. You don't listen to us.
Straight up, you don't. We come to you as laity, as freaking members of your congregation, and you denounce anything we have to say. You want us to come up with ideas to gain more young people into worship on Sundays? Oh, but you are also completely opposed to contemporary anything in worship and you can't do something on a weekend versus a weekday? Yeah, okay. We will get right on that.
4. You expect all young people to be like us, when really we are the exception to the rule.
I don't know how many times I've had to tell people that I'm the exception to the rule. People have told me I'm the hope they see in the church, and that everyone needs to be more like me when it comes to my priorities, but lets face it, it won't happen. Skipping a school function to be at youth? Putting church before everything else, including some family events? Yeah, I'm the exception to the rule my dearest friends. It's part of my call to ministry.
5. Ministry isn't just a full-time job, it's a way of life.
This is the biggest challenge when discerning a call to ministry. You see, ministry certainly isn't a 9-5 job and you call it a day. It isn't even like being a doctor and on-call sometimes. You are on duty 100% of the time. Sure, there are times where you can hang out with friends and leave "Pastor" at church, but your phone could ring at any moment with an emergency on the other end. It's spending hours in the waiting room while someone is in surgery to comfort the family. It's being there during funeral arrangements to reassure the family that they will see their loved ones again. It's being a safe place for people to come with their problems, frustrations, and struggles in life.
While I love the ministry that I do with all my heart, and while I will still more than likely end up in full time vocational ministry as my first and only career, I needed to tell you these five things. I needed to bring to your attention that this thing that looks like it is simple and easy and a 40 hour work week is really not at all what it seems to be. It's not being able to talk about your day because of confidentiality. It's time away from family during special occasions because someone else needs you. And that's for people of any age. You throw in a young person, and dare to say a young woman, and things get really crazy.
Know that we, with all of our hearts, want to fulfill the call that God has on our lives. But sometimes the way we are treated really makes us rethink that cush 9-5 job.