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Call Seekers’ Conundrum

Josh Kerr —  April 22, 2014

Photo Mar 02, 5 54 52 PMHaving recently accepted my first call, I emerge from the call process more attuned to increasing grumbles around the PC(USA).  The grumbles to which I refer are coming from understandably frustrated colleagues and friends in the process of seeking a first call to pastoral ministry.  The reasons for their frustration are pretty simple: they feel called to pastoral ministry in the PC(USA), have completed every step of the process including a master’s degree, and have not yet found a community to serve.  This can be a vocational, emotional, and spiritual crisis, and it is affecting many of my friends around the church.

To begin this discussion, let’s look at some stats from the PC(USA)’s Church Leadership Connection (CLC) website.  According to CLC, there are currently 1336 call seekers registered with the site.  1077 of those call seekers are already ordained Teaching Elders, 245 are candidates like me, and 14 are “lay professionals.”  There are currently 460 open positions on the site, only 46 of which are listed as open to first-time call seekers.  792 of the call seekers on the site are men, and 541 are women.  There are 138 “racial ethnic” call seekers in the system, and 26 “racial ethnic/multi-ethnic” congregations seeking someone.  The webpage where I am finding these statistics is viewable by clicking here.

To summarize that data, there are a lot more people looking for positions than positions available.  There are very few positions listed as open to first-time call seekers.  It is also important to note that women and persons of color continue to have fewer churches seriously consider them for available positions.  All in all, the outlook is not great for those seeking a call, especially first-time call seekers.

Instead of a long treatise on the roots of this dilemma, I would like to offer a few suggestions for the PC(USA) as a whole and for indivdual first-time call seekers.

For the PC(USA)

Bring back the meet-ups  When I talk to experienced pastors about my call seeking experience, they tell me about the days of yesteryear before the CLC website.  They speak of a more regional process that involved ancient tools like bulletin boards, the post office, and meet-ups sponsored by seminaries.  My first suggestion is that we bring back these meet-ups They could be sponsored by seminaries, synods, and presbyteries, and they would allow Pastor Nominating Committees (PNCs) to actually sit down and meet call seekers.  Maybe it is something akin to speed-dating where quick meetings are arranged throughout the day.  Maybe it’s a weekend retreat where folks can really get to know each other.  Whatever the format, a face to face meet-up seems superior in every way to the odd matches and columns of text provided by the CLC. Continue Reading…