Roels points to a study showing only 4 percent of ordained clergy in the Episcopal Church and in the United Church of Christ are younger than 35. That number is 6 percent for Catholics and Evangelical Lutherans, and 7 percent for Presbyterian and United Methodist churches.
. . .
Some of the Christian clergy shortage is sheer demographics: The nation's 76 million baby boomers had only 51 million children. But there are other reasons, as well, Roels said:
• Many Christian denominations now emphasize serving God in all walks of life. "You can be a good Christian engineer or accountant," Roels said.
• Ministers who don't get adequate support may drop out. For example, a study conducted by the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod found 20 percent of pastors in "advanced stages of burnout" and another 20 percent headed there. Low income, poor support for their families and congregational infighting were top reasons for their distress.
"It's not only getting them in the front door, but keeping them from walking out the back door," Roels said.
. . .
Sometimes, two small congregations will hire one Episcopal priest to serve both, said Hamlin, who lived in upstate New York before coming to Lansing.
Some Catholic dioceses assign a priest to more than one parish. Others will ask a team of two priests to handle three or more parishes in tandem, said Chris Anderson, director of the National Association for Lay Ministry, which is studying new ways to find Catholic leadership.
The ranks of permanent deacons nationwide have swelled from fewer than 1,000 in 1975 to more than 14,000. At more than 30,000, lay ministers outnumber diocesan priests, Anderson said.
More than 500 parishes nationwide are led by parish life coordinators, often sisters or deacons. They run the parish day-to-day while a priest - perhaps retired or one with a second diocesan job - says Mass or consecrates the Eucharist. The Lansing diocese also relies on retired priests for help.
The Lilly Vocational Project at Calvin College is one of 88 nationwide working to identify potential ministers while they are still in college. It pairs promising students with mentoring clergy and offers church internships.
The Diocese of Lansing has campaigned vigorously to attract men to vocations, with a snazzy "Men In Black" ad campaign and outreach by its priests. "There are men out there who are being called, but the world is filled with so many messages they can't hear it," said O'Brien, one of those ordained Saturday.
Catholics debate whether ordaining women or letting priests marry would boost their numbers. The Lansing Diocese has one married priest, the Rev. Steven Anderson of Holy Family parish in Grand Blanc. He got papal permission to convert from the charismatic Episcopal faith. Yet: "The Episcopal Church has married priests and women priests, and they still have a shortage," O'Brien pointed out.
Sounds like a job, er, vocation, is waiting if you have the qualifications, and will accept the salary and working conditions.