25 tips for young clergy setting out to save their congregations and the world

Print More

(RNS) Young clergy face daunting odds: dwindling membership in organized religion, denominations best known for fighting over LGBT people and a host of alternatives for millennial spirituality outside of church.

Fear not. The following tips will set the young clergyperson on the path to success beyond their wildest seminary dreams:

  1. Lay low for the first two years while you get to know your congregation.
  2. Remember this formula: talking to 100 random people at coffee shops will gain you 20 new worship visitors and net 3 new members, which is halfway to your six new members-a-week membership growth target.
  3. Be ambitious! Jump right in and let the chips fall where they may.
  4. Dress the part, Rabbi Young-But-Super-Serious.
  5. If you’re married, great! Your spouse can be expected to report to the children’s education wing at 8am.
  6. If you nail this sermon, everyone in congregation will start treating each other like human beings.
  7. Don’t ignore seniors, or children, or young singles, or the staff, or the community, or people in [insert foreign country] or congregants’ pets.
  8. Keep your distance from your congregants. Spiritually enriching relationships start with healthy boundaries.
  9. Dress down, Rev. Casual-Friendly-Approachable.
  10. If you nail this sermon, hunger and war will end.
  11. Hang out with your congregants. A lot. You’re no different than them, right?
  12. Be yourself, but don’t offend anyone.
  13. Don’t mind offending anyone, they need to hear you speak The Truth.
  14. Don’t mess this up: only first impressions matter.
  15. Get arrested for protesting [insert your tradition’s favorite cause].
  16. Prove your worth early by showing off all your theological knowledge.
  17. No one likes a know-it-all.
  18. Don’t pray too much, lest you be seen as overly pietistic.
  19. If you nail this sermon, you will never be subjected to advice about how to be a better clergyperson again.
  20. Fully disconnect from ministry obligations one day a year.
  21. Grab coffee with other local clergy, except [insert religious group you don’t like] of course.
  22. Like the Beatles said: all you need is love. But also entertaining sermons, and meeting every need of every congregant.
  23. If you nail this sermon, the pews will be full the following the week.
  24. Take 10 deep breaths, then say “why not?” to [insert something you never imagined when you decided to go into ministry.]
  25. God created the entire universe in six days, what have you done this week?

Have your own tips you want to share? Leave a comment or email theliteralist.rns@gmail.com