The Rev. Timothy Cargal, Ph.D., serves as Assistant Stated Clerk for Preparation for Ministry in Mid Council Ministries of the Office of the General Assembly.
“... the Land that I Will Show You” is the blog of the Office of Preparation for Ministry of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). This blog is designed to serve as a resource for those discerning and preparing for a call to the ministry of Word and Sacrament as ordained teaching elders of the church. It will also provide a place for reflecting on and dialoging about the changing context of pastoral ministry in the early 21st century.
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Over the past two days there has been a lively discussion on the “CPM Sharing” group about the statistics relating those seeking pastoral positions in the PC(USA) with the number of positions available. Given the focus of that group on the preparation for ministry process, there has been particular interest around the “job market” for those looking for their first call. The numbers on which the discussion is based have been drawn from the Church Leadership Connection (CLC) website (click here for current figures). Some very thoughtful questions and observations about what those numbers can and cannot tell us have been raised. In this blog I want to offer some numbers that provide a different vantage point for getting a snapshot of the “first call” situation.
For the past twelve months we have been tracking information regarding the time elapsed between “certification of readiness to be examined for ordination, pending a call,” and the actual date of ordination. Now this particular data obviously only relates, within our polity, to people who have succeeded in finding a “first call” position. It does not give us any information about how many are still looking. Additionally, since we have been tracking “time from certification to ordination” generally it does not differentiate between congregational calls and calls to other forms of validated ministry (which likely would not have been found through CLC). Nevertheless, it does provide a different way of thinking about the “job market.”
In setting the statistical context, I’m also going to take a brief “soap box” moment as well. Since last September, we have received 91 “Form 7B” reports of ordination. Now, through other information submitted to the Office of the General Assembly, we know there have been at least 250 ordinations during this period. So we only have data on about one-third of the ordinations. Additionally, of the 91 forms we received only 50 include both the certification and the ordination dates. From a statistical standpoint, that means we have a sample of about 20% of the actual ordinations. From a “soap box” standpoint, it is a reminder that we can only provide information about trends in the process when we get regular reports of presbytery actions related to those in the preparation process. (“Soap box” moment now ended.)
So, what have we learned from this sample of 20% of the ordinations in the past twelve months? Well, I can tell you that on average, it took just over 13 months from certification to ordination. I can also tell you that within that sample of 50 individuals, the shortest period was 14 days and the longest was over eight and half years. If you remember your statistics classes, then you will know that with a range like that on a sample of only 50 that the average isn’t necessarily very helpful. Somewhat more useful is the mean (the time for the middle person in the sample), which was about 8 months. But perhaps the best view comes from “clumping” folks into groups as in this pie chart. It shows that of those in the sample, two-thirds were ordained within one year of “certification” and that 1-in-10 was seeking that first call for more than two years.
Generalizing from these numbers, we can say that for those who are finding first calls in the current “job market” it is very common for the search to take about a year or a bit more. We can also say that is highly unusual for a person to receive a first call if they have been searching for more than two years. Certainly it can happen, but it did for only 5 people in this sample of 50.
What conclusions would you draw either as a candidate or someone who works with candidates seeking their first call from these numbers? What do the numbers suggest should be shared with those looking to begin the process as inquirers?