SHould We Not Concentrate on The Smaller Churches? : LUSENET : A.M.E. Today Discussion : One Thread

Something to ponder!

If there are more churches thatn ministers because of misters not willing to serve small churches,then we need to rethink our process in supplying pastors.

According to a study by Duke University,, many ministers don't want to work for small congregations.

There are ministers willing to serve congregations but financial reasons is a major consideration.

According to a study by the Presbyterian Church, USA, nearly half of their churches running 51-100 are pastorless. That percentage jumps to 76.6 percent in Presbyterian churches running fewer than 50.

Limited financial resources make it harder for small congregations to attract and keep ministers, observers note.

Smaller congregations are less likely to provide salary and benefit packages that can support a full-time pastor, some pastors are looking for retirement and insurance benefits that smaller churches cannot afford.

Work in smaller churches also is seen as less prestigious in the eyes of some. Small-church ministry is viewed as a stepping stone to larger churches with better-paying positions.

Tis trure, Seminarians study, go to school and look to be pastor of First AME Church. The number of smaller churches is increasing as larger congregations decline. Seemingly, small churches are the future, and ministers will need to lead them.

We should encourage believers to consider bivocational ministry and to give service to the smaller charges.

I'm delighted to serve a smaller congregation. How about you?

Be Blessed! WHS

-- Anonymous, March 31, 2004


Brother Smith, I would love to get your citation for the article on the Presbyterian Church study. Would you please provide that for us. I really do not think we can adequately compare the AME Church with the Presbyterian Church. If I understand correctly, the Presbyterian Church USA provides their pastors (including pastors of smaller congregations with under 100 members) with a guaranteed salary and benefits package. In certain situations, the AME Church, if I am correct, provides some pastors with a "salary suppliment" of about $8,000-10,000 per year. However, if my information is correct, that is only provided to those pastors that plan on pastoring full- time, without a full-time job. As far as the bi-vocational ministry plan is concerned, most pastors already have full-time jobs and are trying to pastor churches because some of the smaller (and even some of the larger, more established) AME Churches cannot afford to pay pastor's salary's and benefits. A good friend of mine pastors a small, "missionary-sized" church. He really enjoyed it; however, the church could not afford to pay him, and he could not afford to quit his job. What was really disturbing to him was that, when assessments were due, if the church was unable to raise the funds, then he was ultimately responsible for the annual assessments, which averaged thousands of dollars per year. I think the problem with the bi-vocational plan is that it is difficult for a minister to pay in excess of $50,000 per year for a Master of Divinity degree, and then you expect him or her to not be compensated for the work that they perform. Many people that devote full-time to seminary want to work in full-time ministry, and they cannot because, due to family commitments, they have to work a full-time secular job. It is a catch-22 situation.

-- Anonymous, March 31, 2004

Brother Smith -

This is an important question which I trust will receive thoughtful attention in the upcoming Gen Con. My suggestion is simple but politically problematic. If you consolidate the smaller churches and require every AME Pastor to have an M.Div. as a requirement to receive a pastoral charge, the disequilibrium of "too many churches chasing too few qualified pastors" would be corrected. Correcting the imbalance would also allow pastors to earn a living wage. The problem is we want to have our cake and eat it too. For those who remain adamantly opposed to mergers and consolidation the only option would be to remain pastorless and all of the implications this pejorative term suggests. As I have indicated before, consolidation is more effective if it is initiated at the COnnectional level. The economic reality (which I can speak with some degree of expertise) for our Zion is that the current number of Episcopal Districts & Bishops is too high. We need radical realignment among our Districts preceeding realignment of our annual conferences. QED

-- Anonymous, March 31, 2004

God bless you Rev. Smith and all the pastors like you. I believe that if God has called you to serve, you will go where He sends no matter the size of the congregation nor the degrees one holds. There are a number of small churches throughout the US and there are many dedicated bivocational pastors serving their congregations. This is the true spirit of the Lamb. I know of one pastor in PA who has done a wonderful job with his charge. He is highly educated with an MBA and assigned a small church outside of Philadelphia approximately two years ago. The church had a small congregation but since he has been there there is standing room only at Sunday services. I know this pastor to be one who believes the Word of God and relies on His Word. It is true. Many are called but few are chosen. Praise God!

Thanks again Rev. Smith for being true to Christ and your calling!

-- Anonymous, March 31, 2004

The AME Church has been moving toward full-time ministers with the M- Div as the minimun educational requirement. This means the pastors must earn full-time salaries, which would range from $50K in a small twon in Texas to more than $200K in Los Angeles. The average salary for an AME minister world-wide should be around $75K annually plus a decent retirement package. That scale is based loosely on the cost-of- living. Now, lets take Texas: I doubt if a single pastor is earning $50K per year. Some has suggested consolidation. That will help in a large urban area but not in Texas. For example, we have one PE District that has 22 active churches with a total of less than 1100 active members (the Annual Conference roll is much higher). This is the problem: These members are located (scattered) across an area of approximatel 150,000 square miles, from Dallas to Texarkana (230 miles) and from Ennis to Denison (150 miles). We have one church in Greenville that could accomodate all 1100 members but 1050 of them would have to drive 125 miles or more to church. We have four churches in an area where the average driving distance would be about 10 - 12 miles. If these four were combined we would have about 130 members, still not enough to afford afull-time minister.

If we really intend to hold to the Full Time Minister with MDIV, these churches must be either closed or allowed to leave the connection and take the property with them. Now I know that "take the property" is a dirty word and a crime but the alternative is a loss of the members and the property also.

Some may wonder how the AME Church grew in Texas: Almost all of the AME preachers were bi-vocational; employed as school teachers, professionals, farmers, and self-employed businessmen and so were the members. As black folk migrated to the cities, and integration closed the all-black schools, the economic level of our membership decreased. As this happened, pressure was applied from the Episcopal leve to maintain the same Budget with less members. As with anything, when too much pressure is applied, something burst. We are at the bursting point.

A pastor should never pay the budget of a church because the church cannot pay. It defeats the system and will only last until the pastor tires of paying or gets another church.

Be Blessed

-- Anonymous, March 31, 2004

Brother Smith Small congregations will always be around just as larger ones. I was at one very small Church this past Sunday in the 2nd Episcopal District. The Spirit was alive and well in the service. The membership is low. The Church is very small but tastefully done. The Membership appear faithful. I thought it was great.I have also seen small charges turned into larger ones. With God all things are possible. Blessings

-- Anonymous, March 31, 2004

Several of you have touched on a few of the issues but I will add my two cents anyway. If we develop a real finacially prudent minimum salary program that will guarantee me a certain salary to go n the woods with those three memebers and still survive being full time then I personally would go tomorrow. But on a personal note finishing Seminary in the next month or so and going on staff would actually pay me more than average first charge that i would receive out of Seminary what really do you do?? Sister Mary's suggestion is what a good layperson would say but the truth of the matter is a servant is worthy of his or her hire. My loan payments every month is more than the average mission pastors salary. SO people need to not hate on the young eminariasn ofr getting good appointments because weh ave paid our dues and I more than probably any other support and travel this church to be visible and to let the Bishops and leaders of the church now that I am available for service. The COnnectional church is not giving regular pastors stipends any more that office was eliminated att he last general conference and if you asked those who were on the list how much they received and how often they received it, you might be suprised by hte response. Lastly we need to send some of these elders in these churches that have forty people on staff and nothing to do on Sunday to these back wood churches and staff them with pastors who are not doing anything but reading a scriptre once a month on the front row of hte church.

-- Anonymous, April 02, 2004

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