In the last quarter century the average age of pastors has climbed by almost a decade. Brady and Alex discuss why this is concerning.
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What’s In This Session?
- In 1992, the average age of a Protestant lead pastor was 44 years old. In 2016, the average age was 54 years old – a full decade older (Barna) (0:42)
- Millennials are the largest living generation in North America (1:36)
- In 1968, 55% of pastors were under the age of 45. In 2017, just 22 percent are under the age of 45 (Barna) (2:32)
- Give every decade a voice (3:49)
- Two way problem: More Millennials need to step up (do it yourself if you need to Millennial); More older pastors need to step aside (or watch your legacy crumble) (3:12)
Show Notes & Resources Mentioned
- Pro Church Tools
- Pro Church Tools on Facebook
- Pro Church Tools on YouTube
- Brady Shearer on Instagram
- Brady Shearer on Twitter
- Alex Mills on Instagram
- Barna – The Aging of America’s Pastors
The Full Transcript
Brady Shearer: Pro Church Daily is brought to you by Storytape. Unlimited stock video downloads on a single monthly subscription. Head to storytape.com, and you can browse through every single video clip we have to offer for free.
Alex Mills: Well, hey there, and welcome to Pro Church Daily, the show where in 10 minutes or less you’re going to get your daily dose of tips, and tactics to help your church share the message of Jesus, while we navigate the biggest communication shift in the last 500 years. I’m your host Alex Mills, and I’m joined as always by the boss man, Brady Shearer. Today we’re going to talk about why pastors are so old.
Brady Shearer: Pastors are old.
Alex Mills: They are so old.
Brady Shearer: This isn’t conjecture on our part as young people, this is just data.
Alex Mills: Yeah, this is just fact.
Brady Shearer: In 1992, Alex was not born.
Alex Mills: Not quite.
Brady Shearer: I was 1 year old. 1992, the average age of a Protestant lead pastor in ’92 was 44 years old, and this number comes directly from Barna, great research on their part. ’92, average age, Protestant lead pastor, 44.
Alex Mills: Okay.
Brady Shearer: Middle age, the average age of a Protestant lead pastor in 2016, fast-forward just 24 years, 2016, is a full decade older, 54 years old. Right now …
Alex Mills: That’s crazy.
Brady Shearer: It is indeed crazy, and I remember stumbling across this data point for the first time, and I was like, “I don’t believe it.”
Alex Mills: Yeah.
Brady Shearer: Then you start thinking about all the lead pastors that you know you, and you’re like, “I’m thinking I might believe it.” 54 years old, so in the span of just a quarter century, the average age of lead pastors grew by a full decade from 44 to 54. That’s concerning on its own, but it becomes even more concerning when you couple it with the fact that millennial’s, those aged in 2017, 20 to 37-ish, are the single largest demographic generation that is living in North America, and really the world.
That means that the largest demographic in your church is … Pardon me, not in your church, the largest demographic in your community, in your city, in your nation, is those 20 to 37, the average lead pastor is a full 10, 20, maybe even 34 years older than them. That means there’s a big disconnect. That doesn’t mean that someone older shouldn’t be leading younger people, it doesn’t mean that at all.
Alex Mills: Of course not.
Brady Shearer: We’re living through this huge communication shift, the way that we communicate has drastically changed. Millennial’s, digital natives growing up on technology in ways that generations before them never had, and this means that we’ve got a huge gap, we’ve got to bridge that gap.
Alex Mills: For sure.
Brady Shearer: To talk more data, this might be one of those things where you think, “Okay, pastors grew a little bit older, is that something that has always happened?” Not necessarily, this is more research from Barna. In 1968, 55% of pastors were under the age of 45.
Alex Mills: Wow.
Brady Shearer: Sorry, six out of ten pastors under the age of 45 in 1968. ’68, the majority of pastors are under the age of 45. Fast-forward to 2017, just 22% of pastors under the age of 45, and I want to pass this over you Alex, because you are an ordained reverend, a pastor that is under the age of 45 as far as I know, fountain of youth excluded, what’s your perspective on this?
Alex Mills: Yeah, I have grown up in a church, and now I get the privilege of working in a church that has always believed, and I’ll use myself as an example, but believed in me, and believed in and people who are less than 54 years of age. I consider myself, and according to this data, you can just look at it, I consider myself very privileged to be a young 24, 25 year old.
Brady Shearer: You’re definitely an outlier.
Alex Mills: Yeah, and to be believed in, and supported by our church, it’s a privilege of mine, but the data says that most churches don’t have this kind of … Don’t foster this kind of environment, and so what we like to do in our church, is at least, and it doesn’t have to be senior leadership, but at least have a voice in leadership from every decade represented. From 20s, all the way up to as high as you want to go, we like to have at least one voice representing a decade, so 20 to 30, 30 to 40, so that like I said, it doesn’t have to be your senior leadership, but at least have a voice from each one of those age demographics speaking into where you’re going, what you’re doing, what your vision is, and I think if more churches would kind of, and this isn’t about my church, but I think if more churches would adopt that kind of value system, that yeah, people in their late teens have something valuable to offer here.
People in their 20s have something valuable to say here, if we would kind of foster that environment, and start to hear from younger people, but not just younger people, older people as well, and kind of reap from those wells of age and wisdom, that not only would we have more unity in our churches, which is not even what we’re talking about, but that would just be a great byproduct of this, but I think you would start to see that age, that average age of pastors kind of climb down from where it is now.
I think just naturally that would happen, more people would have an open door to walk into pastoral ministry, whether it’s in an associate role like myself, or even a senior role. We have a great friend of ours who has been a senior pastor since his mid to late 20s, and we’re starting to see that in our circles, and I think if we could in churches just accept that people have … There are people in every age demographic in our church that have value to add to our vision, if we could accept that, and like I said, foster that culture, then we would start to see this number climb down, instead of climb upwards, and I think that would be a great thing.
Brady Shearer: If you are one of these lead pastors in your 50s, if you’re in that demographic, which again is the vast majority, that first easy step you can take, is simply inviting some millennial’s within your church, give them a seat at the table.
Alex Mills: Yeah.
Brady Shearer: You don’t need to pass over your preaching responsibilities tomorrow to a 22-year-old.
Alex Mills: Right.
Brady Shearer: You don’t need to do that, but millennial’s want to feel like they have a voice. Millennial’s, at this point, are in charge for so many things in their lives. Mortgage, rent, they’re parents, married, relationships, work, and yet they feel like they go to church, and they’re not valued, they’re not given an ear to listen too. Just give them a seat at the table, really the best first step that you can take, and if you’re a millennial on the flip side, if you’re one of the younger people, be willing to step up.
I do not buy into this whole entitlement philosophy of millennial’s, at least that’s not how I live my life, or how any of my friends do really, but maybe it has some validity, don’t be that type of millennial.
Alex Mills: Right.
Brady Shearer: Choose to curb that trend, or curb that perspective that so many have about us. Step up, and what’s so great about the time that we’re living through, and we’re seeing this with church plants, with startup churches with bi-vocational pastors, is that you don’t even have to wait for someone to give you that time and space if you don’t want too.
Alex Mills: Yeah.
Brady Shearer: No one told me I could start Pro Church Tools, and build a multimillion dollar company, I believed in myself, I bet on myself, and now look where we’ve come. No one gave me this opportunity, no one was inviting me saying, “Hey, start up your company, and we’ll fund …” I’m not saying I’m a self-made man, I don’t believe in that, but the Internet, communication, the way that it’s at now, gives us the chance to do things that we never would’ve been able to do before, so don’t neglect the opportunity.
Alex Mills: Yeah.
Brady Shearer: That will do it for this episode of Pro Church Daily, but before we go, we wanted to tell you about Storytape, another platform that no one told us we could make, but we did anyway.
Alex Mills: We did.
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Alex Mills: Nice.
Brady Shearer: Daily, we’ll give you 10% off your subscription forever, and we’ll also give you this free bonus, but only in the month of January, storytape.com is the place to do that. Thanks for watching this episode of Pro Church Daily, and we’ll see you tomorrow. Hey thanks for listening to today’s episode of Pro Church Daily, if you haven’t already, make sure to subscribe to Pro Church Daily for new podcasts just like this one every single day. If you’d like to support this podcast, leave us a rating, or review. It doesn’t cost you much, but it means the world to us, talk to you tomorrow.