Monday, January 14, 2013

"Sharp fall in young ministers"?

That was not the headline yesterday.

The headline yesterday was "Sharp fall in young police officers." And it was about the freeze in police recruitment which has meant, not surprisingly, that there are a lot fewer police officers under 26.

What interests me is the assumptions behind this investigation. The assumption is that this is notable, if not regrettable, that we have fewer young police officers.

Some people will often say "aren't police officers looking young?" as they will often say to me "aren't you rather young to be a minister?" And yet it seems to be seen as a good thing to have young police officers.

My question to the Unitarian community is: when did we see a headline that said, "Sharp fall in young ministers"? There very clearly has been a fall in young ministers, perhaps not sharp, but nevertheless significant. When did anyone notice this? When did anyone think this was worth noticing or regretting?

The evidence is that younger ministers are vital to the health and growth of a denomination. And yet when have we noticed this fall, taking stock of it, analysed it and decided to do something about it? When have we decided to actively recruit younger people to the ministry?

We haven't, and I think it's time we did.


Blogger Robin Edgar said...

The same might be said about young lay leaders as well. . .

A church run by a bunch of "old farts" is unlikely to attract new younger members.

I long ago saw that the Unitarian Universalist demographic is aging in North America. In fact, barring unforeseen "miracles", Unitarian Universalist membership is likely remain stagnant, and even decline significantly, over the next decade or two. . .

UUA President Peter Morales' Big Fat U*U Pipe Dream of Unitarian Universalism "going viral" in 2017 is about as realistic as his delusionally grandiose campaign slogan -

"We *can* be *the* religion for our time."

With President Morales' first term as UUA President winding up Unitarian Universalism is every bit as much a "tiny, declining, fringe religion" today (if not more so. . .) as it was when Rev. Morales' used that "less than flattering" but quite realistic phrase to describe "The U*U Movement" in his stump speech announcing his candidacy for UUA president in 2008.

I am convinced that the anti-religious "bad attitude" of the "zealous atheists" in many U*U "churches" is a major contributing factor to the decline and possible fall of Unitarian Universalism in the 21st century. Not that there are not other significant contributing factors such as the classism and elitism of Unitarian Universalists.

12:17 pm  
Blogger Kenneth Robertson said...

As well as a notable lack of young ministers ,i.e. under 40 years of age, there is a notable lack of active ministers in the GA ,i.e those not listed as retired ( that many of the retired are taking services regularly is true , but they are not in active pastoral leadership of a congregation ).Also notable is the short tenure of many ministers in their posts; not all may aspire to the 36+years of Cliff Reed at Ipswich (recently concluded) but I would have thought that to develop an effective ministry at least7-10 years' tenure was needed ; as much as anything the minister ( and possibly his family) are entitled to have some domestic stability as well.

7:45 pm  
Blogger Stephen Lingwood said...

Kenneth, from a purely church-growth point of view you are entirely right. The evidence seems to be that 7 to 10/15/even 20 years is most effective.

10:27 am  
Blogger Robin Edgar said...

Excellent point Kenneth. I have noticed similarly short tenures for U*U clergy on this side of the pond. In North America there is always an interim minister for a term of one to two years between two ministers. Not sure about UK situation. Of course it is always possible to have a mediocre minister of long tenure too. . .

12:53 pm  

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