Protestant pastor on the job hunt? Good luck in this market

By the time she graduated from Vanderbilt Divinity School in May 2009, the Rev. Kara Hildebrandt could translate a passage from the Greek New Testament with relative ease and write a sermon like a pro.

Then she hit the clergy glut.

Too many preachers, too many small churches and a bad economy make this one of the worst job markets for Protestant ministers in decades.

According to the Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches, there are more than 600,000 ministers in the United States but only 338,000 churches. Many of those are small churches that can’t afford a full-time preacher. Among Presbyterians, there are four pastors looking for work for every one job opening. It took Hildebrandt six months to land a spot.

Even when seminary graduates find work, they’re paid less than other professionals, with starting salaries in the $30,000 range, according to the Fund for Theological Education. The fund is sponsoring a conference in Boston next week for seminary students and graduates to brainstorm about their calling and their economic future.

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