May 21, 2010
Will Preach for Food
National unemployment hovers around 10 percent. There are a lot of hurting individuals and households in the country as a result, but few have reported on the impact on clergy. The Wall Street Journal has released an article on the sharp rise in unemployment among pastors and the very hard realities of being an out-of-work church leader.
Here are some sobering stats:
Unemployed pastors in 2005: 2,000
Unemployed pastors in 2007: 3,000
Unemployed pastors in 2009: 5,000
30 percent of church attendees report reducing their giving since November 2009.
What makes matters more challenging for unemployed pastors is that because churches are not required to pay unemployment taxes, laid-off church workers can't collect benefits offered to other workers. In addition, the church sector may be one of the last to begin hiring again as staffing decisions are directly linked to giving, and giving is linked to the unemployment rates within the congregation. In other words, the people in the pews need jobs before they'll be able to hire someone to fill the pulpit. Pastors looking for a job may be looking longer than other workers and without the cushion of an unemployment check.
The article by Joe Light also reports that "some of the hardest hit by the recession have been megachurches." Light doesn't explain why megachurches have been harder hit, but one might speculate that larger churches simply have more pastors and therefore a downturn in giving will result in more layoffs. A 10 percent cut at a small church might mean moving the full-time youth pastor to part-time, but a 10 percent cut at a megachurch could mean laying off a dozen full-time workers.
Check out Skye Jethani's article on "Mission & Recession." What lessons should the church learn from the economic downturn?