Due to some discussion on another blog about the difficulty seminary students have in finding a church which can pay a decent salary as well as housing, I've been thinking a lot about the sending of interns to churches that have a hard time "affording" an intern pastor.
And I suppose it is hard enough to find churches willing to take an intern so the interns end up taking what they can get.
It seems to me that an ideal church to go to would be a thriving church that truly "can't afford" an intern. That would be an interesting setting and, perhaps, a cultural change for many interns.
But the reality is that many (most??) churches afford what they choose to afford. I mean that in the widest sense. We live in a culture that encourages immediate gratification and living off of plastic and credit. It also encourages feathering one's own nest. Therefore, so many people "can't afford" to tithe; they've gotten themselves hooked into many obligations. We, as a church, don't do much to counter this "education" that is provided by the culture. High schools could easily drop a month of some subject in favor of "practical consumer math education" For everybody!
However, the ELCA provides people (expenses paid by the church) to come into churches to conduct major stewardship campaigns, usually for a building project. And guess what? A church that has been living month to month suddenly has $200,000 pledged. Maybe people are just digging into their excess. Maybe they are sacrificing. But it is for bricks and mortar. Feathering the nest. I think that the consultant isn't successful because he/she is telling the congregation something new, but rather because he/she is telling them something they already know. They already know that they could be more intentional about giving to their church.
Several years ago, at one of our regular stewardship talks in church, an elderly member got up and said, "There is good news and bad news about money in this church. The Good News is that we have all the money we need. The Bad News is that it is still in your pockets."
How about encouraging some sacrifice for the training of ministers? Should the ELCA have some minimum standards for paying an intern? Or perhaps they could encourage some kind of alternative compensation.
Note: Having been active in my church for years, I know that the synod guidelines for pastor's salaries are really helpful for churches. People tend to be "overly frugal" about paying a pastor. Even with the guidelines, salaries aren't going to make anyone rich. I've often wondered if a "fair salary" might be the sum of the tithes of ten people on the church council. Now that would be in interesting requirement!