“And, behold, I looked and saw a vast number of churches in the United States of America. I looked again and, behold, in most of these churches there was a single, solo, lone pastor serving them.”
I love these religion in America studies and surveys. This one presents what we all think is the ideal and normative US church: a rather small church that has a pastor, and only A pastor, not a team of pastors, not a lead/chief/senior/CEO pastor and a gaggle of sub/assistant/associate pastors.
The National Congregations Study from the non-basketball side of Duke University has more data that you want to access and digest. Mark Wingfield at Baptist News Global has an informative news article on the study.
Read it but note the other salient point: Most Americans worship in a larger, multi-staff church not in a small neighborhood, single staff church.
This is a study of all US congregations, not just Southern Baptist ones. My colleagues who think the world is flat and composed only of the SBC and ne plus ultra will be confused and disappointed.
Our Grand Convention probably looks similar with a lot of small churches, single staff, and most congregants choosing larger churches. You can look it up and give the details.
A few observations:
- Female clergy lead 14% of US congregations. Zero percent in the SBC. There is not a single church in the SBC led by a female minister. The SBC doesn’t have a problem with female pastors, never has.
- Most SBC seminarians and ministers will likely end up NOT as a pastor of a single staff church although perhaps most will take a turn in such churches. Most of the attractive fulltime positions aren’t in median sized or below SBC churches. That would be well under 100 in attendance. They are in larger churches with staff.
- While all SBC leaders praise the small church solo pastor and the bivocational pastor, there is less incentive to design programs and ministry helps to those churches and pastors. The reason is that most of the congregants and most of the money is in larger churches. I have an instrument that measures what size church any particular SBC program is designed and fitted for. It rarely pegs on the small church.
- I pastored churches that were around average size for an SBC church. I”m a single staff guy at heart but had one additional FT staff minister about half of my time and part time staffers most of the time. The single staff guy is my hero but I hope he doesn’t have to print the bulletin out each week or cut the church grass, or unstop the church toilet.
- If you’re a single staff SBC guy and ask for help, you will get it. Just don’t wait for the denominational people to come looking for you.
Churches still have bulletins, right? Or has my day completely passed?
Willy Rice, my choice for SBC president in Anaheim (contingent on money growing on a tree in my backyard) is Senior Pastor of a church with around sixty staffers. There were many Sundays where I looked out over less than that number. But, good for him. He is a successful and winsome pastor. Yes, he’s a megapastor, so we are back to a parade of megapastors as SBC presidents, unless the CBN finds someone who can win an election.