Christianity Today’s weblog pointed me to this interesting article in the NY Times. Apparently, seminary enrollment has gone up, but, at the same time, graduates who anticipate becoming pastors in local congregations has gone down. Consider this:
“Though mainline denominations have shrunk considerably over the last 35 years, enrollment in mainline divinity schools rose 20 percent from 1990 to 2004, according to the Association of Theological Schools. Part-time study programs and interest from minority applicants and women contributed to the gains.
At the same time, seminary graduates drifted away from becoming pastors. Among United Methodists, about 70 percent of seminary graduates in a recent survey said they would enter pastoral ministry, compared with more than 90 percent of graduates in 1970.
Mainline seminarians, including the Methodists, now largely fall into two age groups: those over 40, who are embarking on a second career in ministry, and those under 30, who are more likely to choose another profession.
At Candler, a United Methodist divinity school with about 500 students from various denominations, a majority of students is under 30, according to Cynthia Meyer, assistant dean of students. Only about half the graduates say they will become church pastors, she said.”
I wonder what connection exists between the decline of mainline denominations and the decrease in seminarians interested in/called to enter pastorates. Has the decline led to less interest in the local congregation as a viable place be in ministry, especially in the mainline? Has the decrease in pastors led to decline among mainline churches? Certainly the answer is more complex than a simple “which end of the spectrum” approach, but these two coinciding phenomena do raise natural questions about connections between the two.