Young United Methodist Clergy Ideas Sought in New Survey
The Lewis Center for Church Leadership invites young United Methodist clergy 35 or younger to share information about themselves and their ministries. Topics include factors influencing decisions to enter ministry, perceptions of how age influences standing in the church, the nature of current appointments, financial well-being, and levels of satisfaction in ministry. This survey will inform a book being prepared for publication prior to the 2008 General Conference.
This research will help answer questions that have arisen following the publication of Clergy Age Trends in the United Methodist Church : 1985-2005 by the Lewis Center in March 2006. This report documented a dramatic drop in the number and percentage of United Methodist elders under the age of 35 in the last twenty years. Today under 35 clergy makes up about five percent of elders, deacons, and local pastors. For example, the number of elders under 35 declined from 3,219 in 1985 to 850 in 2005. Young elders as a percentage of all elders dropped from 15.05% in 1985 to only 4.69% in 2005. The report also found that the percentage of young clergy has fallen to around five percent or less in several other denominations.
The release of this data in March 2006 sparked considerable discussion and debate, both within the church and in the secular media, about the growing challenge of finding younger persons to lead congregations. "Increasingly, young clergy are regarded as an 'endangered species' in our churches," says Dr. Lovett H. Weems, Jr., director of the Lewis Center for Church Leadership and author of the clergy age report. The Lewis Center’s work on this subject grows out of the concern that the age of United Methodist clergy is getting disproportionately older than the population the church seeks to reach. "Efforts to encourage younger persons to respond to God's call to ordained ministry must be a priority for the church," says Weems.
The Lewis Center for Church Leadership is an initiative of Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC, established in 2003 to support increased congregational and denominational vitality and growth by providing ideas, research, resources, and training related to church leadership.
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