Acton Institute Powerblog

Study of Clerical Careers

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Courtesy of Pulpit & Pew comes Factors Shaping Clergy Careers: A Wakeup Call for Protestant Denominations and Pastors, by Patricia M. Y. Chang (HT: Mere Comments). This study is based on surveys conducted primarily with mainline Protestant denominations.

Perhaps most helpful are the observations of a minister whose denomination was not included. Here’s a brief excerpt from James A. Meek of the Presbyterian Church in America:

The ministry is a calling, not just a career, as Chang notes at the outset of her study. It is her failure in some ways to appreciate this that bothers me most about her study. While I understand the point of the pyramid-shaped “structure of opportunity,” thinking of clergy careers in this way hurts more than it helps. The pyramid accepts the view that upward mobility is the goal of clergy careers and that those who do not continue to move up have “stalled.”

For some other information about pastors, visit The Barna Group. See especially “A New Generation of Pastors Places its Stamp on Ministry,” which states, “Many young pastors are avoiding seminary due to their growing skepticism about its necessity and relevance to their ministry. Past studies have also shown that a growing number of large churches are training congregants for full-time ministry from within, rather than sending people off-campus for more traditional academic training for ministry.” Seminaries seem to be increasingly places for the academic rather than the pastoral study of theology. Even as a seminarian pursuing an academic career, I’m still inclined to think that this isn’t such a good thing.

But such analyses are interesting in part given the four offices of the church that John Calvin derived: the presbyterian offices of pastor (preaching) and elder (disciplining), the office of doctor (teaching), and the office of deacon (caring for the poor). Schaff writes (s.v. “PRESBYTER,PRESBYTERATE,” II.2 “Calvinistic”) that Calvin “derived four offices, of which the teachers (chiefly professors of theology) are mentioned only in specifically Calvinistic ordinances,” so that the non-pastoral office of teacher is unique to Calvin.

Jordan J. Ballor Jordan J. Ballor (Dr. theol., University of Zurich; Ph.D., Calvin Theological Seminary) is a senior research fellow and director of publishing at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion & Liberty. He is also a postdoctoral researcher in theology and economics at the VU University Amsterdam as part of the "What Good Markets Are Good For" project. He is author of Get Your Hands Dirty: Essays on Christian Social Thought (and Action) (Wipf & Stock, 2013), Covenant, Causality, and Law: A Study in the Theology of Wolfgang Musculus (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2012) and Ecumenical Babel: Confusing Economic Ideology and the Church's Social Witness (Christian's Library Press, 2010), as well as editor of numerous works, including Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology. Jordan is also associate director of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research at Calvin Theological Seminary.


  • Just a few things today:

    From the Acton Institute’s Power Blog: Study of Clerical Careers, a short item expanding on the Pew study I mentioned in yesterday’s Inbox.

    From the Daily Telegraph, a review of Max Hasting’s book Warriors.

    Also from the DT, for those of you who like mystery novels, Her Dark Materials, an interview with Ruth Rendell. I like mystery stories, and once read a few of her books because everyone praised them. The solution to each one depended upon a sexual perversion (incest particularly). I suppose this was a good trick for the writer, making the key to the solution something the average reader would not think of, but it was too creepy for me and I went on to other writers. Even the interviewer refers to “the chilly and amoral tone of her novels,” and the interview itself seems revealing.

    From the Wall Street Journal, Some Like It Less Hot, subtitled “Hollywood wages war on ‘family friendly’ film versions” (I have some sympathy for the directors’ feelings, actually, having been the victim of ham-fisted editors); Welcome to L.A., subtitled “A notorious book publisher heads to Los Angeles and ‘culture.’ Stop laughing”; and the Orthodox theologian Alexander Webster’s Death of a Patriarch, about the late Greek Orthodox Archbishop Iakovos.

    And finally, from, Risk-taking boys do not get the girls, which seems to me a dubious finding, and Gay men read maps like women. If the story is correct, they have an advantage over straight men and women in this.