Why Can’t Church Keep Young Workers? Millennial Pastor Reveals Pressure, Feeling of Helplessness

A picture shows a man sitting on a windowsill on a snowy day.
A picture shows a man sitting on a windowsill on a snowy day. (photo: unsplash.com)
By Li ShiguangJune 21st, 2022

In these years, Chinese churches are generally constantly developing. However, problems arise in the process. One of the problems, which has gradually shown to be more and more critical signs over many years is there being “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 lengths of service which have a great influence. 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 in which it is difficult for young workers to carry on. So, over the years, the turnover rate of young workers has been very high.

When faced with such a situation, he claimed that church leaders 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 being busy. In the church, the patriarchal model was still very evident.

Church workers held irregular meetings, and almost all were about tasks. No one discussesed 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 the transformation should happen. Every meeting could be said to be simply a gathering. At the meetings, young workers had ideas but did not speak out because they feeled that even if they did, their ideas would not be adopted. Meanwhile, 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 millenial bluntly stated, "Personally, I rarely get pastoral care or concern from church leaders. Whenever I receive their phone calls, 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 must have emotional needs."

He added that some reasons why they leaved their full-time ministry positions were too low 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.

Below 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, in fact, 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 will treat 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 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 also 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 will give some assistance to my family.

Last year, I was thinking about whether I should change my job. I may participate in some church services while working. However, thank God, I didn’t find a suitable job in the end, so I didn’t leave.

On average, our family will spend more than 1,000 yuan a month. Under normal circumstances, my wife and I will earn about 2,000 yuan together. Usually, if nothing happens, it will be fine, but once something happens, such as when my child or either adult gets sick, or when something unexpected happens in the family, money will become 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.

- Translated by Charlie Li

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