Most Presbyterians expect that financial hardship will prevent an increasing number of Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) congregations to be led by full-time installed pastors.
Instead, hard-pressed churches will rely more on commissioned lay pastors, supply pastors, informal pastoral leaders, or no pastoral leaders, instead of by ordained ministers serving as full-time, installed pastors.
According to the November 2010 Presbyterian Panel survey on congregational leadership, most Presbyterian members and elders have this expectation even though they believe every congregation should have a full-time, installed pastor.
Eighty-two percent of members and 72 percent of elders who have an opinion “strongly agree” or “agree” that it is important for every congregation to have such pastoral leadership.
However, only about two in five ministers ― 43 percent of pastors and 36 percent of non-pastoral ministers ― feel the same way.
Currently, less than half of PC(USA) congregations have a full-time, installed pastor.
“Presbyterians in the pews want every church to have a full-time pastor, but they think fewer congregations will be able to afford one in the future,” said Perry Chang, administrator of the Presbyterian Panel. “Ministers, on the other hand, are more open to different pastoral leadership arrangements.”
Almost all members (93 percent), elders (93 percent), pastors (98 percent), and non-parish ministers (95 percent) who have an opinion “strongly agree” or “agree” that, in the future, fewer congregations will be able to afford an ordained minister who serves as a full-time, installed pastor.
About two-thirds of members (69 percent) and elders (69 percent) and 87 percent of pastors and 82 percent of non-parish ministers believe that congregations’ inability to pay salary and benefits currently accounts “a great deal” or “quite a bit” for why some congregations don’t have ordained ministers serving as installed pastors.
About one-quarter of Presbyterians “strongly agree” or “agree” that congregations lack installed pastors because they are able to find people who are not ordained PC(USA) ministers, such as commissioned lay pastors or ministers from other denominations, to serve.
Majorities of panelists in each group believe it is good that congregations have the option of calling as a pastoral leader a temporary pastor, a person who is also employed in work outside of parish ministry (a tentmaker or bi-vocational pastor), or a commissioned lay pastor.
More members (36 percent) and elders (35 percent) than pastors (9 percent) and non-parish ministers (7 percent) believe congregations lack installed pastors because seminaries are graduating too few people.
More pastors (45 percent) and non-parish ministers (41 percent) than members (29 percent) and elders (29 percent) believe some congregations are without installed pastors because they are located in areas where the spouse of a potential pastor might have difficulty finding a job.
Every three years the PC(USA)’s Research Services assembles representative samples of Presbyterian church members, elders and ministers who respond to questions on different topics quarterly. Known as the Presbyterian Panel, these randomly chosen respondents provide a way for church leaders to learn the opinions of rank-and-file Presbyterians.
For more information about this survey or the Presbyterian Panel in general, contact Perry Chang in Research Services by email or by phone at (502) 569-5071.