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Kirk bids to plug clergy drain with youth apprenticeships

apprenticeships and a school recruitment drive are among proposals to stem a shortage of Church of Scotland clergy.

APPEAL: Moderator Lorna Hood asked for recruits on social media.
APPEAL: Moderator Lorna Hood asked for recruits on social media.

The Kirk's Ministries Council is to warn that unless more recruits are found, it will fall well short of its target of having 800 ministers by the mid-2020s. There could be as many as 225 too few ministers.

It will open debate on possible solutions at the Church's annual General Assembly which starts at the weekend.

A Ministries Council report found ministers often first show an interest in the clergy - or being "called" to the vocation by God - between the age of 10 and 20, and that a key move is to encourage young people who show an interest in the Church.

This has already been done to a degree by the Kirk and other denominations including Scotland's Roman Catholics.

The document to be debated on Monday states: "It is our conviction that significant numbers of those who received a call to parish ministry do so when they are aged between 10 and 20.

"Therefore it is vital that current parish ministers are supported in encouraging young people of that age who receive such a call.

"One avenue for this is to offer parish ministry as a place of work experience.

"A number of ministers already do this and report that it is an extremely positive experience for young people."

The Kirk hopes to pilot separate summer volunteer parish ministry placements for young people over the summer in up to four parishes.

The report said: "A number of young people, particularly those at university or leaving school, have commented to us that they would welcome such an opportunity."

It said that others may want to take part in apprenticeship-style schemes "which could offer a greater degree of financial assistance", as the Kirk examines a wide choice of solutions.

The report also said promotional material will be provided for chaplains who plan to set out the Kirk's employment prospects at career fairs.

About 500 ministers are due to reach retirement age by 2025 and there is a concern that even with improved annual recruitment rates there could be only about 600 parishes with inducted stipendiary ministers by then.

An earlier report showed just 13% (113) out of 845 ministers were born after 1967.

It is thought new ways into the ministry to be considered could help trainees get more cash help.

Becoming a minister involves seven years of training and education. The stipend or salary starts at around £25,000 and goes up to about £31,000,

The new report went on: "The council also believes that an assessment of the financial difficulties involved in training has deterred a number of individuals from putting themselves forward for assessment as candidates."

The Rt Rev Lorna Hood became the first Moderator of the General Assembly to issue her Easter Message on social media when she appealed for more young people to consider the Kirk.

In the three-minute video, Mrs Hood talks of her own experience as a trainee minister in Canada.

The annual gathering of senior Church figures will also consider the gay clergy issue - which has been broached each year at the event since the appointment of openly gay minister Scott Rennie to an Aberdeen church in 2009 - and the question of Scottish independence.

A suggestion by the Presbytery of Argyll for the Kirk to consider holding the General Assembly once every two years "to release time, energy and resources" will be discussed as well.

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