Conversation with Andrew C. Thompson

December 12, 2008
The United Methodist Reporter, section B
"New Stats offer hope for young UM clergy"
by Andrew C. Thompson

In this article Andrew sites a new study which shows an increase of young clergy entering the church the past couple of years. The following is section of an email I sent to Andrew Thompson and then his subsequent response:

"In light of these numbers coming in about the rise of younger clergy, your article makes it sound as though the church is doing a better job at addressing the issue of an aging clergy pool. I do not have reports to back this, but could it be the church is not doing a better job but the current generation is more inclined to seek out jobs and careers of service to others? The rise of volunteerism in the younger generation could give evidence that the church may not be doing much at all to buck the older clergy trend (the three year residency requirement after completion of seminary is not an effective way to streamline the ordination process). Do you know of specific things which the Church is doing to encourage younger people to seek ordination in the UMC?"

Lovett Weems reported to me that he is hearing about individual annual conferences taking this issue head-on, in the way they deal with their candidates in such arenas as the Board of Ordained Ministry. I can report one positive development in my own annual conference in Arkansas. The bishop there, Charles Crutchfield, is breaking with tradition and instructing his district superintendents to make appointments for returning seminary students first in the appointment process. That change is designed to place the new pastors in appointments that will be conducive to their growth and ministry as they move through the probationary period. In other words - keep them out of rural 3-point charges! In light of the old school idea that pastors had to start out in the least-desirable appointments and work their way up, I think that is a significant move for a bishop to make. For what it is worth, Lovett also mentioned to me that he sees a lot of younger clergy themselves doing things to help bring their brothers and sisters along. Again, in my own conference there is a new movement afoot to gather young clergy at different points in the year for fellowship and retreat, and it is (significantly) a movement that originated with the young clergy themselves.