On a mission to fill empty pulpits
DENVER — Low pay and benefits. Overly demanding leaders. Unrealistic expectations.…
‘What ideas or solutions would you propose to inspire and train more preachers to serve in Churches of Christ?”
That was one question in a recent survey by The Christian Chronicle.
Here are a few of the responses by ministers across the nation:
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“Lots of prayer for God to move in the hearts of future ministers. Churches can look out among themselves for gifted individuals to recruit out of secular careers into ministry. Help shepherds to value ministers beyond financial responsibilities. Ministers in healthy churches can begin to equip young men for ministry through mentoring. Help churches recognize that they have a primary role in identifying, encouraging and even financially supporting future preachers.” — Scott Laird, Great Falls Church of Christ in Montana
“Lift up and celebrate the good, life-changing work of churches and ministers regularly in our schools and various other gatherings. When the powerful differences that preaching and teaching God’s word and serving the community in the name of Jesus can do can be seen, there will be a desire by our young people to become ministers.” — Steve Cloer, Harding School of Theology in Memphis, Tenn.
“I think more Christians would be inspired to go into ministry if they witnessed churches doing more to honor and retain their ministers. High turnover and a general lack of respect/appreciation toward ministers don’t make it a very attractive job at the moment. This seems to me to be the bigger cultural issue that is driving lower minister numbers rather than the general decline of Churches of Christ.” — Alan Middleton, Eastridge Church of Christ in Rockwall, Texas
“Existing preacher camps for young men are a great start. More emphasis on church-sponsored ministry centers (formerly “Bible chairs”) at colleges and universities could be an answer. More honesty from existing preachers about their positive experiences would be a great help.” — Ken Richter, Soldier Creek Church of Christ in Piedmont, Okla.
“Incorporate the preacher more within the youth ministry. All some youth groups ever know of the preacher is what they see on Sunday morning. He needs to be an integral part of the youth program. He needs to be allowed/invited to go on retreats with them, teach youth classes, counsel and build relationships with the youth.” — Steve Higginbotham, Karns Church of Christ in Knoxville, Tenn.
“Schools of preaching and colleges need to provide training to students about how to deal with church problems, difficult elderships and members and prepare them for what a full-time minister and family must go through. … More mentoring from older, wiser men would help. Start encouraging our youth to be preachers … and model that behavior.” — Richard Combs, Port Charlotte Church of Christ in Florida
“I would encourage shepherds and congregations to not overload their preacher. All too often a preacher is tasked with doing things that should be shared among the members, i.e. visiting, Bible studies, etc. He becomes the workhorse for the entire church while also seeking to be a godly husband and father.” — Chris McCurley, Walnut Street Church of Christ in Dickson, Tenn.
“We’ll have to get creative. We have incredible resources today — every preacher can be seen online — and there are lessons and study aids at BibleProject.org, RightNowMedia.org, Renew.org and numerous other sources. Though not ideal, smaller churches who cannot afford a preacher may have to utilize online resources for sermons or classes. Congregations could share a minister either on the same Sunday or an alternate schedule. … Our colleges need to design programs to train students to be bivocational ministers, and congregations should create networks that help support, encourage and equip bivocational ministers in their area.” — Scott Franks, Edgemere Church of Christ in Wichita Falls, Texas
“Christian colleges should collaborate with actual preachers to teach preachers. Perhaps our preacher training schools and Christian colleges need to collaborate in some way as well. … Health insurance is still an issue. I know many preachers who rely on their wife’s work for insurance coverage.” — Taylor Cave, South Walker Church of Christ in Oklahoma City
“Children grow up to do the things they’ve been encouraged to do as worthy endeavors and uses of their talents. We need to articulate regularly to our children our belief that they will grow up to be capable preachers, teachers, missionaries and leaders. We need to create spaces where they can practice, learn and be affirmed as they try.” — Mark Adams, Tusculum Church of Christ in Nashville, Tenn.
“Fully fund individuals who want to go into preaching. … Encourage local men to share in the preaching. Encourage bivocational preachers. Encourage circuit preaching again. Partner with training programs that would keep a person local while training them in online and hybrid formats.” — Ryan Bitikofer, Alma School Road Church of Christ in Chandler, Ariz.
Related: On a mission to fill empty pulpits
Related: On a mission to fill empty pulpits
“Every pulpit preacher has a story of what influenced them to aspire to preach. … Parents, for one, have influence over the direction their children choose. Are parents encouraging their sons to become preachers? If so, that can help. … The home congregation is key. What does a young man see in his pulpit preacher? A person to admire or desire to emulate? Does the congregation provide opportunities for the young men to speak or spend time with the preacher? Lads to Leaders, Leadership Training for Christ and preacher camps can play a big role in influencing someone to preach.” — Mark Bryson, McDermott Road Church of Christ in Plano, Texas
BOBBY ROSS JR. is Editor-in-Chief of The Christian Chronicle. Reach him at [email protected].
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