Next numbers I’d like to see: ordained and fellowshipped ministers

I’ve been enjoying reviewing Unitarian Universalist Association numbers and now ones I’d especially like to see related to ordained and fellowshipped ministers. Some of these numbers, admittedly, may not exist.

  • How many ministers are there?  (That one should be easy.) How many are retired or have long-term disabilities? How many can we expect in the next five years?
  • How many ministers are in compensated congregational ministries? Full-time? part-time? Uncompensated?
  • How many ministers are related (sponsored) by congregations, but make their ministry and living elsewhere?
  • How many ministers (like me) have make-do ministries and work in secular employment?
  • How many ministers are unemployed or underemployed?
  • How many ministers have more than $10,000 in student debt? $25,000? $50,000?
  • How many congregations have ministers of other fellowships, or none?
  • How many congregations have debt-remediation plans? plan to offer internships?

All of these — there may be other questions just below the surface — come from my sense that the “market” in ministers is so super-saturated that we are developing different classes of ministers. Haves and have-nots — and it has been my experience that simple talent and spiritual gifts are not what puts people in one category or another. It is also my sense that the standing ministerial systems (especially the UUMA) have done little to correct inequity or assist ministers outside the traditional compass of “real ministry.” (That’s one reason why I refused to renew my UUMA membership some years ago.)

Ministers seem to me a cheap resource despite their huge investments of time and money, and are treated accordingly.

By Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.


  1. The UUMA membership numbers are roughly 1700 members total, 500 or so who are retired. Also, the dues rates vary by income so when the rates changed they went up for some, down for others. I suspect that you the UUMA has some of the information you are after, the UUA has other parts and some is just unavailable.

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