A large wave of retiring pastors is moving towards the church. Boomer pastors are currently between the ages of 53 and 71. They won’t all retire at once, so this wave won’t crash into the church like a tsunami. But the American church is not prepared to replace these pastors as they retire.
Just 1 in 7 pastors leading congregations are under 40, and the average age of Protestant senior pastors has risen to 54 from 44 in the last 25 years—a full decade older! Additionally, Millennials are not as likely to choose ministry as a career when compared with previous generations.
Over the next 10 years, a lot of established churches will struggle to find a pastor for the next generation. Why would a Millennial want to pastor an established church with a large portion of older congregants? Obviously, God’s call is what drives most people to a shepherding role, but I’ll elaborate on some practical reasons.
- Diversity includes multiple generations. The Millennials are the most ethnically diverse generation. Personally, this demographic excites me for my generation. However, a truly diverse church not only has people with different ethnicities but also people from multiple generations and multiple socioeconomic backgrounds. All generations have something to add. When you combine the dogged clarity of Builders with the adaptability of Millennials, you get something beautiful in the church.
- The older generations will teach you things your own generation may not. The older generations tend to be more loyal. They have more life experience as well. Younger pastors learn wisdom and build patience when working with people decades older than them.
- Established churches tend to be more stable. Sure, there are examples of volatile congregations that are a few steps away from insolvency. But most established churches are stable. They have set budgets and set programs. While stability can become the rut in which churches get stuck, it’s also a blessing to a young pastor trying to support a family and learn how to lead. Besides, Millennials are actually moving less than previous generations, so why not stay put at an established church?
- Younger people need a sense of history. There is something to a church that can attest to decades of God’s provision and tell decades’ worth of stories about mission work. Young people have to work a little more to learn history (older people lived it!). An established church has built-in history from which to gain a sense of how God has worked over time.
- Established churches are more rooted in the community. Generally, the Millennial generation wants to change their communities for the better. An established church, long rooted in the community, is a great way to accomplish that goal.
The wave of retiring Boomer pastors will swell to the point that many churches will struggle to find a younger replacement. The established church needs more Millennial pastors. There are good reasons to consider being one of them.