We get some wonderfully positive news, such as...
In 2008, the number of young elders increased from 876 to 910, and the percentage grew from 4.92 to 5.21 percent.
The increase in young adult clergy is one indication that many groups are focusing on this issue and finding new ways to engage young adults in leadership for the denomination, she said. Additionally, “we are seeing a growing interest with young people in answering a call to Christian vocation,” she said.
Great, right? Not sooooo fast my friend. In the same article are some quotes from actual young clergy...
There are not more clergy under 35 in the church “because it is not attractive to us,” said Teresa Cook. At 27, she rarely sees “anyone my age in my 600-member church.”
Wow, did she really just say church isn't cool?! Yeah. yeah, I have to agree. I hate to say it, but we've missed out on an entire generation because of our inability to be cool enough. I know what you are thinking! We aren't worried about being cool! Well...we should be worried about sharing the Gospel with folks, and its hard to do that when they won't come, and they won't come if its not cool. Well, as Theresa mentions, its not attractive. But attractive is cool, and young, and exciting. And often, Church ain't any of those things.
But I have to give a shout out to those conferences who are having some success attracting young clergy:
The five conferences where young elders are highest as a percentage of elders in 2008 are Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama-West Florida, North Alabama and Oklahoma. The largest number of young elders is found in Western North Carolina with 60.
First, Southeastern Jurisdiction, woot woot! Second, the North Alabama Conference is doing pretty hot for a conference without a seminary. I attribute this less to Dukies following Willimon and more with clergy going out of state to seminary, marrying another clergy, and bringing them back to Alabama. THATS how you recruit.
I think its, as "Lovin' it" Weems mentions, modest good news. But I think the "modest good news" is that the attrition rate is not worse. Think about it, old clergy might retire or die more, but young clergy simply become (with regularity) old clergy. The fact the % of young clergy rose slightly means our ability to recruit young clergy is outpacing aging, death, and general frustration with the UMC leadership/process. Kinda puts it in perspective doesn't it?
Praise God! I hope our church will better represent the generations that have been missed.