A call, Staff-Parish Relations Committee, credentialing, education, Staff-Parish Relations Committee meeting, an appointment, congregations, Staff-Parish Relations Committee meetings are all connected when an individual acknowledges that God is calling him or her to ministry as a Local Pastor, Deacon or Elder.

Each year through the local church’s charge conference, the covenant of affirmation between the local church and the candidate for representative ministry is renewed when the charge conference recommends the individual continues on the path that one day will lead to being credentialed and appointed to serve in ordained ministry.

I have participated at such events. They are high moments. More times than not, however, when the question is raised about financially supporting the person the church is recommending for representative ministry, there is rarely an affirmative response or even any response to finances.

Have you ever given thought to the cost of having a clergy person serve your church? If the “call” is critical to the vocation of representative ministry (and I believe that it is) why do we give so little consideration to how the person will answer that call in such a way that he or she will be able to serve God, the church and especially his or her family faithfully and without debt that will be a hindrance?

Have you taken the time to calculate the cost your pastor incurs to equip him- or herself for the ministry he or she has been called to? Have you done the research to find out the cost of seminary education? Have you researched the time commitment that local pastors make to receive training? Have you talked to a Deacon about the process he or she follows to receive an appointment?

Today, many important topics are being reduced to sound bites. Sound bites are nice, if you are having a quick conversation about a superficial issue. But, when it comes to complex issues, sound bites are neither adequate nor appropriate.

The topic of clergy and financial challenges is a complex issue. Yet, the topic is being filled with “sound bites” by some laity and clergy. It is not uncommon to hear such statements (that are true in many cases) such as “My children have debt! Everyone has debt!”

On the surface the statement appears to answer the question, “Why be concerned about clergy excellence being challenged by financial challenges?”

Why be concerned about clergy excellence that is being hampered by financial challenges; challenges that will have an impact on the quality of leadership the clergy person desires to give and the congregation will receive? The question implies that the life of the clergy person can be compartmentalized. What the clergy person is experiencing personally will not have an impact on the congregation.

Research proves that the ability of a clergy person to excel in leadership and therefore lead the congregation to becoming a more viable congregation will be impacted by that clergy person’s overall sense of well-being. Clergy, who are experiencing financial challenges, are not experiencing well-being.

How can we have a serious conversation void of sound bites about a complex issue? Let’s begin with the facts. (To be continued next month.)

Michelle Cobb serves as director of the Rejuvenate Project. For more information, contact her at michelle.cobb@inumc.org.