Full Text for Where Have All the Young Men Gone? (Text)

THE SPRINGFIELDER October 1974 Volume 38, Number 4 Where Have All the Youna Men Gone? J C;LYI)E ti. I, they certainly do not provide all of the necessary answers. 'There is small comfort in the fact that other Christian bodies are suffering the same l>roblen~, that of a dearth of ministerial stu- dents. The national community of the Jesuit Society of the United States decreased in novice applications alnlost 300% during the past decade. Rla jor advertising campaigns are presently being car- ried out ainorig many religious orders, even utilizing full-page news- paper advertisements to recruit for the ministry as well as colorful advertiselllents in such l~ublications as Playboy. Research studies recently completed identify other reasons why young men are disappearing from the rolls of ministerial student bodies. These studies and the accompanying literature seem to point toward a declining image of the church in the .t.rrorlcl today, thus adding to the pressing shortage of ministerial candidates. Slocuni and Bo~vles ( 196 8) cliscovcred that out of approximately 3 100 high school juniors and seniors sampled concerning career aspirations, 6 7.1 5% of the boys and 62.8 % of the girls indicated they would dis- like a church-service occupation. In a comparison of attractiveness and prestige in this same study, church-service occupations tied with that of motel and hotel clerk at a rank of 45.5. \Yells ( 1973) inclicated his belief, from an impressionistic study, that the status and role of the church and society has changed so nl~~ch as to re- flect adversely on the professional ministry. He comnlented that ". . . once the ininister was anlong the few educated people in town. Noiv he is hardly distinctive at all and \.cry little revered." Yet John- son and Cornell (1972) in a questionnaire sampling of over 26 million Protestants, members of 15 different major denoi1linations in the United States and Canada, discorrered that Inore than half of the pastors and laity survey jn these ttvo countries expressed a bc- lief that the church's role in society in the next ten years would become more important. Thus the question arises, not so much "where have all the young men gone?" but "where ??ill all the voung Inen come fron~?" Perhaps Rasmussen ( 1967) put a solicl beginning toward a solution to the problem when hc wrote that ". . . nlore and more Protestant denominations are comjng to acknowledge that the start- ing point for responsible recruitment lllust be to foster a minister- l'roducing environment within the church." He went on to identify persons who could influence young men toward the study of the ministry by both their words and their lives, chief of which, of course, was the "convictional model" of the effective and satisfied \ ministcr presently active. I In order to determine a sound statistical basis for improved rccruit~llent for nlinistcrial students in the Lutheran Church-A4issouri Synod, the author of this article conducted extensive research con- cerning the relative importance of recruitment practices and personal influences on student choice of pre-ministerial studies in the Lu- theran Church-Missouri Synod as a doctoral dissertation. The study's research sought to elicit responses froin every frcshnlan ministerial studcnt enrolled in a Missouri Synod college. The study's major purpose was to determine and compare the degree of importance of specific rccruit~~~ent practices carried out within our colleges as well as the dcgree of importance of personal influences on the students' choice of a pre-ministerial curriculum. The relationship between the importance of the students' perceptions and their background, educa- tion, geography, and religious orientation was also considered. 203 students and 20 professional recruitment persons in Synodical col- leges were surveyed and almost 92% of the total ministerial fresh- man population within LC-MS colleges responded to a rather com- prehensive questionnaire. Computerized statistical analysis was then completed, comparing the students' perceptions regarding ministerial recruitment as well as the perceptions of Synodical college "recruit- ers." Although a study of this type can only be classified a beginning, certain conclusions of interest clearly manifested themselves. In capsule form, they are these: 1. Students are recruited for thc ministry more through in- fluences which work on a person fro111 within (such as intangible influences upon a person's life by other persons) rather than by any influence on such a person from without (such as brochures, adver- tising, "persuasion" via teIephone and the like). This theory has long been expo~~ndcd bv behavioral scientists such as Ginzberg and Hol- land, both of whok propounded this theory with regard to a choicc of any occupation as early as the beginning 1950's. 2. In keeping with the conclusion cited above, the research Wllcrc Ha~:c All 'I'lzc Yo-r.nzg ~Mcn Gone' . .- -. 317 -- . - - . . - showed that lllotivation for a young man to stucl): for the ministry is highly spirituaI and begins in his early years. Students constantly identified a) people, b) specific spiritual happenings (i.e. a "religio~~s experience"), and c) perceptions of the work of. the ministry as strong influences in their choice of the nlinisterial curriculum. This conclusion substantiated another theory of Holland's, one which was suggested in 1959 proposing that a person choosing a vocation did so as a result of the influence on him of both his heredity and his environment. 3. Conclusions 1 ant1 2 cited above were not influenced to any significant degree by the ministerial students' education or geography. Some specific findings which were apparent from the research iilcluded the following: 1. The most important single influence in a young man's de- cision to study for the ministry is his own parish pastor. Where the parish pastor constantly projects an image of self-satisfaction with his calling, the young student finds reason to consider that same calling. Due to this finding, the study reconlmended that the church-at-large seek to impress upon the parish pastor his important role as an in- fluence upon prospective ministerial students and therefore the neecl for him to be outwardly positivc about his personal image of the professional ministry. The statistics pointed out that active profes- sional ministers are in by far thc best position of anyone to be of importance in a student's selection of the ministerial curriculum. 2. Other persons were found to play a great part in the selection process of the ministerial curriculum. Thus, people such as parents, relatives, friends, peers, and parish pastors other than the student's own were cited with varying degrees of regu'larity and importance. Oddly enough, since in nlost cases the ministerial student indicated he had been influenced in his early teenage years, parochial school teachers and Sunday school teachers were almost non-existent as fac- tors in student selection of the ministry. Since these persons are active at a time when a ministerial student is being influenced toward vocational selection, it was apparent in the study that the teachers themselves are not conscious of the important role they can and should play in ministerial recruitment. Thus, the stucly's further recommenclation was to concentrate further effort upon informing such persons of the very inlportant role which they can play in the recruitment of students for the ministry. 3. Spiritual experience at an early age was a highly motivating factor, ancl students cited opportunities to lead worship, to participate in worship services as acolytes and the like, and to participate in various opportunities to serve their fellow-men as quite importa~lt to their decisions. The students surveyed paid staggering tribute to their "desire to serve God" and their "desire to serve their fellow-men" as influences toward choice of the ministerial curriculum. Out of 186 responses, 157 students identified their wish to serve God as one of the three most important influences in his choice of the curriculum, and 100 of these students indicated the wish to serve his fellow-man as another of the three most important influences. Overall, if the question "where ~vill all thc young 11le11 come from" is to bc answered satisfactoriIy, the conclusions of this study pointed to some very direct and possible steps to he taken. Thosc with responsibility for ministerial recruitment must concern thenlselves with providing information and inspiration about meaningful minis- try to that matrix which makes up the prospective stt~dent's environ- ment-pastors, parents, teachers, and congregational rnenlbers in general. These people, in turn, must he ~nade to realize that they are the illfluences God uses to enlist young men for His service; people ~110 speak, teach, and live the word of God in the presence of im- prcssionable young nlen are utiIized by the Holy Spirit as significant influences to\vard ministry. There were nlany more meaningful conclusions in the research, hut: this article has atternptecl to put in capsuIe for111 only some of the most important of them. Young men have not "gone" any where- they are still out there, waiting to be recruited for God's ministry. TIIC '(recruiters"- pastors, parents, peers, and people in generaI- need only be conscious of the use God will put them to in the cause of niillisterial recruitment. When is the last time yozr suggested to a young man of your acquaintance that he consider the mxnistry as a \laluable way to spend his life? Ginzberg, E., S. W. Ginsburg, E. Axelrod, and J. L. I-Ianna, Occupntion(il Chozcc: An Approach to a General Theory (New York: Columbia Uni- versi ty l'ress, 19 5 1 ) . f3ollancl, J. L., "A Theory of Vocational Choice," Jozrr~zal of Counseling Y$ychology, VI (1959)) pp. 34-45. lohnson, Douglas W. and George W. Cornell, Punctzrrcd Prcconceptionc (Nclrr Yorlc: Friendship Press, 1972). l~nsmt~ssen, K. I?., "Other Churches: Their Approach in Fostering Vocations," hrationnl Cutholic Educutional Association Brtlletin, LXIV (1967), pp. 200-20 5. Sloctr~n, W. L. and R. T. Rowles, "Attractivencss of Occupations to High School Students," Personnel and Guidance Jotirnal, XLVI (1 968), pp. '751-761. Wells, D. F., "nlc Pastoral Ministrv: l'reparation," Christiunity Today, X (1973)' pp. 8-12.