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According to studies by the Alban Institute and Fuller Seminary, 50 percent of ministers drop out of ministry within the first five years and many never to go back to church again (Meek et al., 2003,p. 340). Meek, K., McMinn, M., Brower, C., Burnett, T., McRay, B., Ramey, M., et al. (2003, Winter). Maintaining personal resiliency: Lessons learned from evangelical protestant clergy. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 31.4(9), 339-47.
A Duke University study found that eighty-five percent of seminary graduates entering the ministry leave within five years and 90% of all pastors will not stay to retirement. This study also found that the North Georgia clergy study attrition rate ran as high as 90% for those having served 20 years or more. (Kanipe, R. (2007, October).
Consider even the most rudimentary analysis of the enterprise that is theological education.
The average annual tuition and fees for seminary training at independent seminaries (not university or
A conservative calculation would be to consider that 28 percent (Tanner, 2012) of the 29,390 M.Div. students (ATS, 2016) will go through a forced termination in their lifetime or 8,229 students in a particular class. (The Alban/Fuller and Duke estimates would double our calculations.)
If 45 percent (3703) do not return to ministry (Lifeway, 1999), then there is an apparent personal cost in tuition and fees of $166,641,300. However, if the larger figure of 1700 terminations every month or 20400 per year is accurate, and 44 percent or 8976 do not return to ministry, then there is an apparent personal and collective loss of $407,420,640 in tuition and fees alone. (And, again, if the Alban/Fuller and Duke estimates are employed, then the costs are even more incredible.)
There are sizable costs to be considered, whether in simple attrition or specific
Working together, we can partner to offer the possibility of healthy clergy-church relationships, relationship renewal, leave-taking without conflagration, and, importantly, retention of stressed and terminated pastors for church service. Together, we might slow the attrition from the available pool of ministers, strengthen the durability of your alumni’s call to ministry, and, pragmatically, justify the costs of preparation for ministry.
A wide variety of collaborations are available to us, including informal chat/open seminars, workshops, visiting lectures/lectureships; curriculum and course content consultations, and cooperative grant proposals.