Who will replace aging pastors in Danish free churches? In its June 2006 issue, Church News from Denmark, reported that several free church denominations in Denmark are experiencing difficulty finding candidates to replace retiring pastors. Too few free church young people seem to be drawn to the vocational ministry, tending rather to follow other career paths even while remaining a part of the church. One University of Copenhagen sociologist finds it puzzling that free church young people are not drawn to the ministry at a time when youth in general are more interested in religion than ever.
There may be reasons why many young believers from the free churches are seemingly deaf to the call of God and are bypassing pastoral ministry as a career. Some of the free church denominations and the local churches are themselves aging and have perhaps lost some of the spontaneity, ardor and freshness of their origins. Even free churches can over time develop their own rigid traditions. Whether in Denmark or elsewhere, subsequent generations tend to cool off, lack the commitment of their forebears, and look for new religious experience or affiliations. Young people often find older church members to be inflexible and uncomfortable with change even when the times warrant it. As one young American believer put it, "It's lonely being a Christian my age in my church."
There tends to be considerable divergence in the views of older and younger church members on what the church should look like and on how to go about doing church. As the article in Church News from Denmark suggests, "For the young generation the most important thing is the social network in the congregation, and they do not understand the traditional ways followed by the older generation." Rather than fight the system, many leave. In addition, many of the free churches in Denmark are quite small and struggling to support their pastors, some having only part-time pastors who must supplement their income from other sources. For young people considering career opportunities, such uncertain modeling detracts from the attractiveness of the vocational ministry. Not a few young people are forsaking the traditional free churches to find a home in the new church plants as, for instance, Copenhagen's lively youth-oriented and thoroughly evangelical Vineyard Church and other similar churches in the urban areas.
Meanwhile, the problem of free church pastoral vacancies persists and begs a solution. Dare we say it--were genuine spiritual revival and a new wave of the Spirit to occur in Denmark, it would go a long way toward remediating what is now a challenging situation threatening the future and possibly even the continued existence of some local churches.
Happily, there are several fine training institutions in Denmark where young people who do respond to God's call to vocational ministry can receive sound theological education and pastoral training. Among these are the Danish Pentecostal Bible College at Mariager (www.pvhcollege.dk/danish/english.asp?ID=1); the International Apostolic Bible College at Kolding (www.biblecollege.dk); the Skandinavisk Akademi for Lederskab og Teologi (SALT) in Copenhagen (www.salt-akademi.dk/SALT_english_version.pdf); and the Dansk Bible Institut/Copenhagen Lutheran School of Theology (www.dbi.edu/Default.aspx?tabid=168).
PRAY for young believers in the Danish free churches, who are idealistic and committed and wanting to serve Christ in ministry, but who find it lonely and frustrating being a part of a church more oriented to the needs and perspectives of its older members.
PRAY that older believers in the free churches will become less concerned about maintaining church and denominational traditions and more understanding of and receptive to the passions and perspectives of younger believers.
PRAY for an increase in the number of students preparing for pastoral ministry in the Danish Bible colleges and evangelical theological faculties noted above.