SEVERSON: The reality is there are not nearly as many available jobs as pastors as there were even a few years ago. Seminaries and divinity schools have seen a drop in enrollment, and especially in the number of graduates who become pastors. There are several reasons, but the main one is that not as many people are attending mainline churches anymore. So there is less need and less money to afford a pastor. This is Greg Sterling, dean of the Yale Divinity School.
DEAN GREG STERLING (Yale Divinity School): There are about 300,000 congregations and churches in the United States. I don’t know what percentage of those are financially viable in the sense of having the capacity of supporting someone on a full-time basis, but my guess is that the majority are not.
SEVERSON: Yale Divinity School students come from several different denominations. Last year only one-in-five graduates went on to become church pastors. Sixteen percent became chaplains at hospitals and schools. About that many will teach in parochial and independent schools. A majority of the rest go to work for nonprofits, like Steven Masbach. Even as he completes his three-year master’s degree, he’s working for a church organization that builds affordable housing. He has a master’s in real estate development and was arranging financing for rich home buyers, but something was missing.