Have you ever made a change for good in your life that was prompted by a number? Imagine with me the sorts of numbers in our lives that generate anxiety or frustration or embarrassment and that also become launch pads for transformation: a number on a scale that launches us toward healthier living; a low grade that launches us toward more focused study; a credit score that launches us toward more faithful choices about our money.
The congregations of the Iowa Conference got such a number last week in a report from The Pension Boards of the United Church of Christ. Our number was 32. We rank 32nd among the 38 Conferences of the United Church of Christ in salaries paid to ordained pastors. Among our neighboring Conferences in the Midwest, only ordained ministers in the South Dakota Conference are compensated less generously.
I know that the Spirit doesn’t stir pastors to seek or to withdraw from ministry opportunities based only on the number 32. But I do know that 32 discourages some gifted pastors from exploring ministry in the Iowa Conference. And I do know that 32 prompts some gifted Iowa Conference pastors to explore ministry opportunities in other Conferences. I know that 32 causes pastors burdened by educational debts stretching past $75,000 to struggle to make ends meet. I know that the Iowa Conference should not justly rank number 1. I know that the Iowa Conference should justly rank higher than 32.
What about you and 32? What does 32 make you feel and think and pray? What impact of 32 do you see in your congregation’s ministries?
Like a scale number or a test result or a score, might 32 be a launch pad for transformation in your congregation? A transformation that begins with questions and conversation? A transformation toward providing for our pastors in ways more just and faithful?
Thanking God for the gift of numbers that trouble and inspire,
—Jonna Jensen, Associate Conference Minister