The State of NAD Pastors – A Beautiful Complexity


The call to serve and function in full-time ministry as a congregational pastor is beautiful and complex. It is beautiful because God chooses to use broken people to reach other broken people. It is beautiful when you get to see lives turned around toward righteousness by grace through faith. It is a beautiful thing when the Holy Spirit brings congregations together in unity towards a single mission. Pastoring a congregation in the 21st century gives one the opportunity to see an abundance of beauty while working with people, and yet at the same time, it reveals vocational complexity. 

Pastoring today is complex because more generations exist in congregations than previous ones. Pastoring the builders, busters, boomers, Gen Xers, Millennials, Gen Y, and, Z all at once requires spiritual discernment, emotional and cultural intelligence.  These generational differences stretch religious leaders to be more conscious and intentional about ministry effectiveness and relevance.  This intentionality is vital because each generation sees, hears, views, and experiences ministry- messaging, mission approaches, and congregational care differently.

A few years ago research was conducted among pastors in the North American Division (NAD) which revealed some detail regarding differences.

Pastors by generation and gender:

20% Silent generation (age 66-81)

59% Baby Boom generation (age 47-65)

13% GenX generation (age 35-46)

5% Millenial generation (age 17-34)

96% of pastors are men

4% of pastors are women, and that percentage has doubled in the past five years

What will the pastorate look like in 10 years? What effect will the aging pastoral workforce have on congregational growth, effectiveness, or care within the NAD?  I will have some researched statistics in next quarter's newsletter which will address this question.

The Education of the pastor:

12% have no college degree

28% have a college degree

46% have a master's degree

14% have a doctoral degree

The length of pastors at current assignments:

78% five years or less

13% six to 10 years

9% over ten years

Complexity also arises out of the challenging realization to reach a community/world in a post-Christian era that doesn’t view biblical spirituality as authoritative.  Additionally, many attending and non-attending Christians feel far less inclined to share their faith even with relational friends, unless those friends ask personal questions about their faith.

In spite of the complexity, the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America has grown, though slowly, to six thousand four hundred seventy-one churches and companies.  The church planting movement has increased our growth significantly in healthy community connecting ways. 

In the NAD the congregational sizes are as follows:

52% - membership under 100

33% - membership 100-299

10% - membership 300-599

5% - membership 600 plus [of that number only 12 are considered 'mega-churches' with 2,000+ membership, most situated at Adventist institutions.

7% have 2 or more pastors, and the number of such churches has been growing in recent years

4% of the almost 6,000 NAD churches are without a pastor at any time

Finally, in the Fall of last year, the NAD Ministerial Association began a focused recruiting emphasis encouraging young people who sense the call to serve in full-time ministry, to prayerfully consider becoming a pastor. Because the harvest is great and the laborers are few, it behooves us to compel the gifted, able, and called individuals to join in this grand ministry of beautiful complexity.