Wise and fascinating data-driven description of what it is like to be a pastor today, June 2, 2009
Cooperating with some of the best academic sociologists of religion in the country, Jackson Carroll orchestrated a comprehensive survey of Christian clergy in the United States in 2001. In God's Potters, he reports his findings with clarity and wisdom. Carroll wants churches and pastors to thrive so he probes the findings for what church leaders can learn and improve. The book is well-written and the findings supported with impeccable data gathering. Throughout the book, Carroll offers his own suggestions for what clergy and denominations might want to do with the findings but his suggestions are clearly separated from conclusions drawn directly from the data. Moreover, happily, his suggestions are balanced and wise. This is the first book I would suggest people read if they want to understand the realities today of pastoring--both positive and negative.
Throughout the book, we learn about how women clergy differ from male clergy; how Catholic, Mainline Protestant, Conservative Protestant, and Historic Black clergy differ; how urban and rural clergy differ; younger and older clergy differ; etc. with regard to: salary, hours worked, job satisfaction, perceived effectiveness, physical health, seminary training, leadership style and conflict management.
God's Potters should be required reading for all faculty members at theological schools. It would do much to bridge the seminary-church gap.
But most importantly this book should be read in seminary "Pastoral Ethics," "Parish / Congregational Ministry and Leadership," and "Supervised Ministry / Field Education / Practicum" courses. The book will probably be neither inspiring nor discouraging for the person considering ordained ministry but it will be enlightening: "Oh, now I now see what a pastor does and the challenges they face!" For young people who are often broadsided by the "reality" of the church, the orientation that God's Potters provides is a very good thing. They will be able to see the possible pitfalls that they face but also encouraged by Carroll that many clergy--especially those who see the pitfalls--thrive.
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