WASHINGTON, D.C. – According to a recent report about clergy, both the numbers of older and younger clergy have increased.

The Lewis Center for Church Leadership of Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington has released its annual report containing this good news in its annual report titled “Clergy Age Trends in the United Methodist Church: 1985-2011.”

The General Board of Pension and Health Benefits assisted with the report.

Conversely, the report also found the percentage of middle-age elders has shrunk dramatically during the past decade.

The complete Clergy Age Trends report is available for free download at www.churchleadership.com/research.

Highlights of report say:

  • Older clergy constitute the largest share of clergy in history;
  • Elders between ages 55 and 72 comprise 52 percent of all active elders*, the highest percentage in history. One year ago this group reached 50 percent for the first time ever. This age cohort represented only 30 percent of active elders as recently as 2000. Previously, their percentage of the total was even lower;
  • The median age of elders remains at 55 in 2011, the highest in history, reached first in 2010. The median age was 50 in 2000 and 45 in 1973;
  • The percentage of middle-age elders continues to shrink;
  • The percentage of elders aged 35 to 54 continues to shrink, from 65 percent of all active elders in 2000 to 43 percent in 2011;
  • Number of young clergy continues to grow slowly but steadily;
  • There are more young elders, deacons** and local pastors*** than there were ten years ago;
  • The numbers and percentages of young elders and local pastors grew slightly in 2011. Young deacons declined very slightly after growing much faster than elders and local pastors for several years.

Of particular interest to many are the average and median ages of elders by conference. Also, the report features a breakdown by conference of young, middle-age and older clergy for elders, deacons and local pastors.

The Lewis Center for Church Leadership of Wesley Theological Seminary is pleased to provide this report as a service to the church.

*Elders are ministers in The United Methodist Church ordained to word and sacrament and are appointed by the bishop to serve in congregations. Appointments are guaranteed.
**Deacons are ministers in The United Methodist Church ordained to word and service and are employed by congregations.
***Local Pastors are ministers in The United Methodist Church ordained to word and sacrament and are appointed by the bishop to serve in a particular congregation.