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(EP)--Are those behind the pulpit truly “moved” by God or do they go from church to church seeking promotions and better pay, like the majority of the job-hopping workforce?

A study released in the September/October issue of “Facts & Trends” magazine shows the majority take a job with a different church because they want to move to a different community, want to lead a larger church, or are seeking a promotion -- not simply because they feel God’s nudge to a new post.

Ron Sellers, president of Phoenix-based Ellison Research, which performed the study among 872 Protestant ministers across the United States, says the results are a reminder that while being part of the clergy is considered a calling, it is also a job.

“People who work in real estate, manufacturing, marketing research and other careers change jobs in order to move to a city they prefer, get a promotion, start a new company, find better working conditions, and make more money, among other reasons,” Sellers said. “This study shows ministers take new jobs mostly for these same reasons.”

Results showed one in 10 pastors has been fired or asked to leave and that 27 percent have moved seeking a different type of community or wanting to live in a different region. Another 20 percent cite promotions, such as associate pastor to senior pastor, as a reason for leaving and 16 percent heard the siren sound of a larger congregation. Another 15 percent said they have left church jobs to start their own churches. Only 12 percent said they moved simply because they felt it was God’s will, the study showed, with Southern Baptists about twice as likely as others to cite this reason.

Other differences among denominations were also revealed: Methodists are more likely to switch denominations, and Lutherans are about twice as likely to head to another region of the country. Presbyterians are not likely to leave their pulpits to start new churches, but Pentecostal and charismatic clergy are. In fact, planting new churches was their top reason for changing jobs.

Whatever the reason, many within the clergy are concerned that pastors do not stay at churches long enough to be effective, the study showed. Only 31 percent feel the average pastor in their denomination stays as senior pastor the right amount of time. Thirty-three percent believe the average tenure is a little too short, and 26 percent feel it is much too short.

As expected, concerns about short stays were higher among pastors, like those in the Methodist faith, who are assigned jobs by their denomination. But the 81 percent of ministers free to choose their own jobs also expressed worries.

The study showed the average American minister has held a paid job in ministry for 19 years, spending an average of 15.6 years as a senior pastor at one or more churches. The average minister in the sample group had been senior pastor of his or her current church for just 7.7 years. Tenure at larger churches averages 8.7 years compared to just 7.2 years at small churches.

“Facts & Trends” is published by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.


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