Sunday, November 13, 2005

Staffing Ratios

In the past we've spoken quite a bit about staffing for growth and staffing ratios. Jerry Lee Holt, pastor of The Edge Christian Worship Center (SDA congregation), in the Twin Cities is again pushing the issue with the conference. As you might recall, Pastor Holt is the one who sent up a sensible (yet inflamatory) tithe proposal to the Minnesota constituency meeting in April of this year (which was handily defeated, if not dead on arrival). At that time, Jerry was proposing that the local church be allowed to receive back a portion of its tithe so that it could effectively staff for growth (since the Minnesota conference will not).

This time, Pastor Holt is lobbying the conference directly for more staff. I enjoy Pastor Holt's approach, since it focuses on facts and figures and research. The following points are taken from a memo sent to his church board as preparation for his upcoming meeting with Minnesota Conference President Bill Miller:

Facts to consider:

1. Within the SDA denomination pastors, for the most part, have completed 4 years of undergraduate school and a graduate degree (approximately 6½ years of education). In today’s market this equates to at least $100,000 of investment in direct out of pocket expenses for the pastor and his/her family.

2. Across all denominations the average life span (total years spent in the profession) of pastors is about 8 years. The average number of years spent in one parish is < 3 years. These facts are also true within our denomination.

3. The ratio of full time paid pastors to MN conference membership (since the 1950) has steadily increased [sic - he meant decreased (lots of people don't know how to cite ratios)] resulting in more members/households for each pastor to care for. Membership is illusive. Better indices may be actual attendance and households.

Generally attendance is < 50 [percent] of membership. This percentage may be high, and certainly differs among congregations. But, it’s a fair benchmark.

According to the U.S. Census in 1955 the average size of households was 3.37 people. Today the average size of households is 2.57. Households have decreased in size, with the most profound changes occurring at the extremes: the largest and smallest households. The composition of households has also dramatically changed. For example, the number of households consisting of single women 30 to 34 years of age has tripled since 1970.

For the Minnesota Conference of SDA the following statistics are relevant. In nearly 55 years the number of pastors remains almost unchanged. In 1955 there were 31 pastors. In 2004 there were 30.

1955 1 pastor: 154 members (estimated attendance of 77— an estimate of 22.8 households)

2004 1 pastor: 220 members (estimated attendance of 110— an estimate of 42.8 households)

Note: Annualized weekly attendance at The Edge (YTD) is 206— an estimate of 80 households).

Finally, in urban areas the geographic distance between parishioners’ households has significantly increased.

4. The pace of work, across all vocations, but especially among “knowledge” workers has intensified. Cell phones, instant messaging, beepers, fax machines, computers, etc. have made access continuous and have created a democratization of access. In 1955 only those in the middle class and above had telephones in their homes. Today even pre-teens have access to the most advanced communications technology.

5. People have fewer hours to volunteer: mothers now work full-time outside the home; according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics the average worker in the U.S. works 44 hours a week, an increase of 3.5 hours since 1997. In contrast, in France, the average person works only 39 hours a week and has several weeks of paid vacation.

6. Throughout North America, since 1950, the expectations for quality services and programs have risen logarithmically.

7. Pastors have no job description, everyone has a different idea of how/where pastors should invest their time, and there is no agreement on a pastor’s primary purpose and subsequently how “success” or “effectiveness” is defined.

8. The time model I created (see attached) fairly portrays the time many SDA pastors spend in ministry. It appears >65 hour work week results from external pressures applied to the pastor as well as internal pressures.

Pastor Holt makes a tremendous case for why he needs more staff right now. Hopefully, someone will listen. If we refuse to staff for growth, we're setting up our growing churches for failure (and setting up our pastors for failure).