Are we losing our pastors?

Published 1:22 am Friday, February 6, 2009

A recent article in Time magazine talked about the shortage of seminary-trained church pastors in rural areas of the United States.

The article spotlighted a lady in rural Minnesota who had watched her beloved church go up in flames, not because of arson but because the church had closed its doors and the town burns all abandoned buildings.

This is an area where pastors are few and far between, and when a congregation has no pastor to lead them, its members are like lost sheep.

It is not uncommon for rural churches to share pastors these days. Some pastors even drive hundreds of miles per week because they pastor numerous churches. Also, the training and ordination of church laypeople is increasing in an effort to offset this shortage.

When I look at Chilton County, I do not see as much evidence of this problem, but there is no doubt that the modern church is much different from the churches we grew up in.

I know of at least two churches in Chilton County that share a pastor. I also know we have more large churches in the county than we used to.

Just as there used to be many community schools in the county, there are now six public schools that are more centralized and more populated. The same is happening with churches, even though it is taking longer.

In the days when we traveled by horse and buggy, we couldn’t travel as far. As a result, there were many churches in a given area. These churches were very community-oriented.

Today, we travel farther and gather in larger congregations. The church I attend attracts people from Clanton, Thorsby, Isabella, Fairview and other areas because it’s in a central location. Also, farmland is shrinking.

Unfortunately, the aging congregations of some small, rural churches are beginning to die off. In some cases, larger churches have been known to step in and help these churches rebuild their membership. But a pastor is crucial.

My pastors have been some of the most influential people in my life. I have seen churches endure long periods of time without a pastor, and those times are hard.

Ultimately, our churches must adjust to the demands brought on by changing times. But with faith and open minds, it can be done.

– Scott Mims is the news editor for The Clanton Advertiser. His column appears each Friday. He can be reached at