Barna releases study on the aging of America’s pastors.
Church leadership in the U.S. is dwindling with lesser people coming forward to become pastors as compared to the 80s and early 90s, according to new research published in The State of Pastors. While a major portion of American pastors were less than 40 years of age back then, today this number has drastically reduced, showing that the desire to be pastors is slowly vanishing.

Although once seen as a vocation that brought in a lot of respect and security, it looks like young Americans no longer see the job of a pastor as something attractive. The survey shows the average age of America’s pastors today is 55, while a similar survey that was carried out in 1992 showed the average age as 44.

This decline could be linked to the receding adherence to religion in each successive generation. At this rate, the question is whether there will be a time when full-time church ministry will go extinct one day.

In 1992, 33 percent of pastors were under the age of 40. Today, only 15 percent of pastors come from the age group. Not surprisingly, the number of older pastors has increased. The number of pastors above 65 years of age has increased from a mere 6 percent to 17 percent. The number of those in the age group between 56 and 64 has gone up from 18 percent to 33 percent. The percentage of pastors between 41 to 55 years of age has increased to 43 percent from 35 percent. This clearly shows the number of older pastors is increasing while young pastors are on an alarming decline. This is a drastic fall when compared to 1968, when 55 percent of pastors were under the age of 45.

Most pastors admit the problem is very few young Christians come forward asking to be trained as pastors. This is only to be expected because the number of Christians in on a steady decline. This points out to a future where there will be a huge shortage in spiritual leadership, which spells disaster for various denominations. The ‘greying’ of the church ministry, as this trend is now called, is a matter of worry for senior pastors as the results could possibly be heralding the beginning of the end for their congregations.

David Kinnaman, president of Barna Group which conducted this study, says having more older elderly members is a good thing because young Christians are looking for wisdom and guidance. He suggests developing better cross-generational and cross-functional teams so that succession efforts can be enhanced.


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