Developing and retaining the next generation of leadership is a challenge for every organization, including churches—and the churches in China. In this article from China Christian Daily based on an interview with a young pastor in central China, some of the key issues of succession and retention of young workers are identified.
Why Can’t Church Keep Young Workers? Millennial Pastor Reveals Pressure, Feeling of Helplessness
In these years, Chinese churches generally are developing constantly. However, problems arise in the process. One of the problems, which has gradually shown to be an increasingly critical issue over many years, is that there are “no successors” for the present generation of church workers.
Christian Times, an online Chinese Christian newspaper, conducted an interview with a post-millennial pastor who is from the middle of China.
As a grassroots pastor specializing in pastoral care, Brother M’s grass-roots church highly emphasizes seniority and length of service. Sometimes, it can even be said that seniority is greater than anything else. The church once wanted to reform, but in fact, it continues with the traditional model which makes it difficult for young workers to carry on. So, over the years, the turnover rate of young workers has been very high.
When faced with this situation, he claimed that church leaders have rarely reflected on the church and themselves, but simply thought, “Let them go if they want. Nowadays, young people have no endurance.” They became even more convinced of their conclusions —“nowadays, young people really have no endurance.”
What he had experienced and seen was that young workers were often simply given some things to do. In fact, these tasks were not at all what they really wanted to do but were just for the sake of keeping busy. In the church, the patriarchal model was still very evident.
Church workers held irregular meetings, and almost all were about tasks. No one discussed how the church’s model and way of doing things should be changed. Neither did they discuss how workers should be treated, what kind of crisis the church was facing, nor how transformation should take place. Every meeting could be said to be simply a gathering. At the meetings, young workers had ideas but did not speak out because they felt that if they did, their ideas would not be adopted. At the same time, middle-aged and elderly workers might not be aware of the problems, so naturally it was even much less possible for them to say a thing.
The millennial [worker] bluntly stated, “Personally, I rarely get pastoral care or concern from church leaders. Whenever they call me, they talk about work tasks or what I have not done well in my work—nothing but only about my tasks. I receive little personal care. In fact, this kind of situation really hurts many young grassroots church workers. They are first and foremost a person, not a machine. As long as you are a human being, you have emotional needs.”
He added that some of the reasons why some have left full-time ministry positions were too low of a salary that could not support being married or insufficient training so as not to be able to meet the needs of the ministry. The unworkable and outdated church model caused them to quit.
The following is an interview with Brother M:
Christian Times: What is the current pay for young workers in your church?
Brother M: Regarding the pay of pastors, the most important issue is seniority and length of service. That is to say, the higher your seniority, the higher your pay.
Christian Times: So, is it actually like the normal practices of companies or businesses in which seniority and pay are related?
Brother M: That’s right. The church treats you according to your seniority not your professional ability, working skills, or workload. Among workers, some are single which is better, but some are married and have children. In their cases, more subsidies or allowances should be considered for them.
I personally think that church leaders pay more attention to seniority possibly because they think such workers are more capable and experienced. Yet, to a large extent, they ignore young workers and fail to see their merits. So, naturally, they won’t care or pay attention to all aspects of their needs.
Therefore, what we finally see is that almost all workers who quit are young while the senior ones hardly ever leave. In the long run, the lack of successors will become increasingly more serious.
Christian Times: Are you married?
Brother M: Yes, and I have a two-year-old child.
Christian Times: It’s so hard to raise children now as it costs a lot of money. Do you and your family have any financial difficulties or shortfalls?
Brother M: Well, the church gives us some corresponding subsidies or allowances. But to be honest, the total of both salary and allowances together is not enough for us. The reason why I am still a church worker is that we depend on my father who works away from home. My parents are both Christians, and they are very supportive of me serving and give some assistance to my family.
Last year, I was thinking about whether I should change jobs. I might participate in some church services while working. However, thank God, I didn’t find a suitable job, so in the end I didn’t leave.
On average, our family spends more than 1,000 yuan a month. Under normal circumstances, my wife and I earn about 2,000 yuan together. Usually, if nothing happens, it is fine, but once something happens, such as when my child or either of us adults get sick, or when something unexpected happens in the family, money becomes a big problem.
Compared with non-ministry peers in the work world, I work harder and more hours than they do. Yet, my income is far less than theirs. Again, in the church, no matter how hard you perform, the church only values your seniority and length of service.
Original article: Why Can’t Church Keep Young Workers? Millennial Pastor Reveals Pressure, Feeling of Helplessness, China Christian Daily.
Edited and reposted with permission.
Are you enjoying a cup of good coffee or fragrant tea while reading the latest ChinaSource post? Consider donating the cost of that “cuppa” to support our content so we can continue to serve you with the latest on Christianity in China.