2011 Clergy Age Trends Report Shows More Older and Younger Clergy

The Lewis Center for Church Leadership today released the 2011 version of its annual report Clergy Age Trends in the United Methodist Church. The report, prepared with assistance from the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits, shows increases in both older and younger clergy. The historic high median age of elders set in 2010 continues, as does a marked decrease in middle age elders.

Highlights of the 2011 Report

Older Clergy Constitute 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. 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.
  • As expected, the total number of clergy retirements went down dramatically in 2009 because of the economic downturn (811 compared to 1,113 in 2008).
  • Even with fewer retirements in 2009, the average retirement age still went down by half a year to 64 in 2009.

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.

The Number of Young Clergy Continues to Grow Slowly but Steadily

  • There are more young elders, deacons, and local pastors than 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.

Much more information is available in the complete Clergy Age Trends report, which is available for download free of charge. 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.



About Author

Dr. Lovett H. Weems, Jr.

Lovett H. Weems Jr. is senior consultant at the Lewis Center for Church Leadership, distinguished professor of church leadership emeritus at Wesley Theological Seminary, and author of several books on leadership.

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