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04 May 2012

Ministers and church leaders

Leadership Trends

According to figures from UK Church Statistics 2005-2015 there were 36,636 ministers in 2010 for the UK's 50,709 churches - 1.38 churches to every minister.
Some denominations, mostly Anglicans and Methodists, share ministers across several churches, whereas other denominations, especially Pentecostal ones, are taking more part-time ministers.

Increasing numbers in some denominations
The number of ministers in the Church of England is expected to decline by 1,600 between 2005 and 2015. Methodists and Presbyterian minister numbers are expected to decline by 200 each. There is however growth going on in other denominations:

  • Baptist +200
  • Independent churches +300
  • New church streams +600
  • Pentecostal +3,800

Source UK Church Statistics 2005-2015 edited by Peter Brierley 2011

Gender and age
The proportion of female ministers in the UK was 7% in 1992, but rose to 18% by 2010.

  • In 2010 Roman Catholics and Orthodox had no women ministers.
  • The Salvation Army ministerial ranks included just under 50% women.
  • Methodists 40%;
  • Church of Scotland 22%;
  • Church of England 20%.

Duration of ministry
Both the age and length of ministry are important for church growth, according to a recent survey of Anglican ministers.

  • Growth is most likely to occur when the minister has been in a post for 7 to 9 years.
  • Growth is also most likely when the minister is either in his/her early 40s or in his/her 60s.

What do ministers do?
A survey of over 500 leaders found that they spent:

  • 21% of their time in administration
  • 19% of their time with their family
  • 14% of their time at meetings
  • 14% of their time in study and preparation
  • 12% of their time on other duties
  • 11% of their time taking services
  • 9% of their time visiting people and pastoral work.

source: 21 concerns for 21st Century Christians by Peter Brierley

The call to ministry

According to a survey carried out by Evangelicals Now in 2005, a third of young men interested in ministry or already active in ministry are confused about what constitutes a 'call' to full-time Christian work.

Support and Guidance
The survey, which polled 400 men between the ages of 21 and 40 who had recently started out in full-time ministry, were in some sort of training or were at the stage of considering full-time ministry, asked respondents to agree or disagree with particular statements regarding the support or guidance they received when considering ministry. Some results were as follows:

  • 73% felt a sense of calling is necessary to enter full-time ministry. 17% didn't.
  • 59% denied being confused over what constitutes 'a call' to full-time Christian work, but 29% admitted experiencing this confusion.
  • 69% found their church was committed to seeking out and training young men. 20% found the opposite was true.
  • 56% said they were being discipled or mentored by a Christian leader. 35% had received no mentoring or discipling from Church leaders. •61% of respondents received regular feedback on their preaching. 29% didn't.
  • 46% did not believe there is a reluctance in the Church to give young men preaching opportunities in case they fail, but 35% did.

Confused about 'calling'
Further analysis of respondents' particular circumstances found that the great majority of those further down the road of full-time ministry are less confused about their calling.

  • 10% of those who had been in ministry for more than 5 years, however, were still confused about what constitutes 'the call'.
  • 41% of respondents who were seriously considering full-time ministry admitted being confused to some extent.
  • 55% of those uncertain about full-time ministry were also confused about what constitutes a 'call'.

The experience of ministry

Dr Mike Clinton from Kings College, London is currently doing some research amongst clergy in the Church of England as part of a 4 year project that “aims to find out what sustains clergy for a ministry that for many will encompass many different settings over several decades”. The first report from the research presents the results of a 2011 survey of 2916 clergy in a range of roles and settings within the Church of England.

In answer to the statement “I feel a sense of privilege to serve in ministry”

  • 53.6%  said always (every day)
  • 27.7% said very often (a few times a week)
  • 10.6% said often (once a week)
  • 4.9% said regularly (a few times a month)
  • 2.3% said now and then (once a month or less)
  • 0.7% said seldom (a few times a year or less)
  • 0.2% said never

In answer to the statement “I feel burned out from my role as a licensed minister”

  • 1.1% said always (every day)
  • 4.5% said very often (a few times a week)
  • 5.5% said often (once a week)
  • 6.8.% said regularly (a few times a month)
  • 20.7% said now and then (once a month or less)
  • 31% said seldom (a few times a year or less)

Pulling out of the Nosedive by Peter Brierley, 2006
Found that:

  • clergy looking after more than 4 churches found the strain too great.
  • 10 % of clergy 2,500 ministers are responsible for more than 5 churches.
  • 72% of churches have just 1 minister and 84% have no other fulltime ordained staff.
  • 53% of churches have part time or volunteer help.

Burnout and the Practice of Ministry Among Rural Clergy by Christopher Rutledge in Rural Theology 2006 (quoted in Pulling Out of the Nosedive)

  • 'unacceptably high proportion of clergy show signs of emotional exhaustion from their ministry.'