Where Have All the Young Pastors Gone?
I read a report last week from the Barna Group examining the state of mainline protestant churches. Reports like this always have loads of interesting facts and tidbits about trends within the culture and church. One particular statistic struck me in this report:
In the last decade the median age of senior pastors has moved from 48 to 55 years of age. According to the report, this is a “shockingly fast increase” in just a ten year period.
This leads me to ask two questions:
1. Where have all the young pastors gone?
2. Are churches giving young pastors a chance?
Four years ago the Grand Avenue Baptist Church took a chance on a 36 year old pastor who was migrating over from the field of education. Grand has had 12 pastors in its 75 year history but I was the youngest at the time that they called me. Last month I turned 40. I think how we view age in our culture is a funny thing. I get comments all the time about how young I am to be pastoring such a fine church as Grand. But then you have a guy like Brett Favre who is also 40 and everybody calls him “old.” They’re amazed that he’s still playing football. Almost as amazed as some people that a 40 year old would be pastoring a church like GABC. Now I by no means am making a case that I’m old! In fact, 40 seems younger to me now than it ever has! But here is what I am saying: from my perspective, 40 isn’t young either. When I think of young guys in the ministry, I don’t think of guys like me, I think of guys in their 20s and 30s. And I am wondering where these pastors are?
In my four years pastoring Grand, I have made the rounds of Association meetings and State Conventions. You want to know what I see? LOTS of gray hair. Hey, there’s nothing wrong with gray hair (I’m getting a few of those myself these days), but man, the absence of youth is not just glaring, it is scary.
So I am praying for two things. I am praying that God will raise up a whole generation of new and young pastors. And I pray that churches around America will have the vision to call these pastors…to take a chance on them. It might just be the thing that a church needs to actually draw and attract younger people to church.
I am thankful that Grand took a chance on me. I am thankful that they have been patient with me. I had my annual job review by our Board last week and one comment I made to them was that after four years as their pastor, I finally feel like I am ready to begin. I do feel like I am a better pastor today than I was four years ago…and I hope to be better in the future. I am thankful the good people of Grand have stuck with me (most have anyway). And I feel like our best is just ahead.
The Barna Group report also noted that most pastors of mainline churches move on after four years. I think that’s sad. They might be leaving just as things are about to really get going!