How Old Are America’s Pastors?

“It is urgent that denominations, networks, and independent churches determine how to best motivate, mobilize, resource, and deploy more younger pastors.”

The graying of the American pastorate did not start in the 1990s, however. More than half of all Protestant clergy (55 percent) were younger than 45 in 1968. This year, only 22 percent of pastors are under 45. The church has gone from a time when a majority of leaders were in their 20s, 30s, and early 40s to a time when most are in their late 50s and beyond.

 

As the average pastor grows older in America, churches say they are struggling to find young Christians who want to become future pastors, according to a new study from Barna Research.

Today, half of American pastors are older than 55. In 1992, less than a quarter of pastors in the U.S. (24 percent) were that old.

Pastors 65 and older have almost tripled in the last 25 years, from 6 percent to 17 percent.

Meanwhile, pastors 40 and younger have fallen from 33 percent in 1992 to 15 percent today.

In 1992, the median age for a Protestant pastor in America was 44. In 2017, it has climbed 10 years to 54.

The graying of the American pastorate did not start in the 1990s, however. More than half of all Protestant clergy (55 percent) were younger than 45 in 1968. This year, only 22 percent of pastors are under 45.

The church has gone from a time when a majority of leaders were in their 20s, 30s, and early 40s to a time when most are in their late 50s and beyond.

“There are now more full-time senior pastors who are over the age of 65 than under the age of 40,” said David Kinnaman, president of Barna Group.

“It is urgent that denominations, networks, and independent churches determine how to best motivate, mobilize, resource, and deploy more younger pastors.”

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