Q: What can you tell me about Nazarene pastors? I am especially interested in things like average tenure, experience, attrition, age, education, and whether we are adding enough new ministers to keep up with the opportunities God is giving us.
A: A recent study of the corps of pastors in the Church of the Nazarene (Canada and the U.S.) provides some answers to your question:
Tenure: The average length of time pastors in the Church of the Nazarene have served in the churches they have pastored is now 4 years and 5 months. This increase from 3 years and 3 months in 1988 and 1996 may be a result of 1989 General Assembly changes in procedures for calling pastors as well as part of a national trend in protestant churches.
Experience: Half of the current corps of pastors has less than 12 years of experience as a pastor. The median is now 11 years and 10 months compared to 10 years and 8 months in 1996. Some of the current pastors have served as an associate or in some other ministry role in addition to their experience as a pastor. Therefore, their years of ministry experience are greater than their years of experience as a pastor. Nearly half (47 percent) of the current pastors took their first ministry assignment since 1990.
Persistence: The annual attrition rate of new ministers in the Church of the Nazarene is relatively constant at around 3 percent during the first 15 years of ministry. Those who earn a degree from any of the Nazarene colleges or Nazarene Theological Seminary are more likely to persist than those who earn their degrees from other institutions or who withdraw before completing their degrees.
Age: There are more Nazarene pastors from the 'Baby Boom' generation than from any other age group. The 'Baby Bust' (Generation X) generation are now in their thirties and as might have been expected are a smaller proportion of the corps of current pastors. The 'Shadow Boom' (Millennials) does not yet appear to have significantly affected the corps of Nazarene pastors.
Education: The most common reported path to the senior pastor role is through a liberal arts college to seminary and then an assignment as senior pastor. There appears to have been a declining influence of formal education at Nazarene institutions among ordinands over the last twenty years—from 76 percent in 1985 to 61 percent in 2004. On average, pastors have more education than lay members.
Enough Ministers for the Opportunities: During the last 10 years, 2,701 Nazarene elders and 321 deacons have been ordained in Canada and the U.S. Also, 5,872 newly licensed ministers have been added to the corps. During these 10 years, 4,030 ministers have been lost to the corps, 1,594 died, and 1,403 retired.
Nazarene Research Center
Holiness Today, Nov/Dec 2006