Throwback 2019: How Does Clergy Age Impact Churches?

At the beginning of every year, we share some of our most memorable posts from the past twelve months. The following post from May 12, 2019, by Rev. David Schoen, where he asks how clergy age can impact a congregation and in what ways. David wrote the comments below as an introduction to the reposting of his blog.

This post received the greatest number of views for 2019. Enjoy!

The reposting of this blog on the decline in number of young clergy and the impact of clergy age on congregations offers an opportunity to include and address some of the diverse responses and comments the blog received. The range of responses included:

  • Appreciation by younger clergy that their ministry was seen and heard
  • Criticism that leadership of older clergy for vitality and change was not recognized
  • Concern that the blog and research would encourage ‘ageism’ against older clergy
  • Affirmation, skepticism and disagreement with the research and definition of vitality
  • Frustration that many congregations are unwilling to change
  • Encouragement of multi-generational collaborative dialogue, work, and training

Noting the research comments included in the blog, vital congregations have many characteristics beyond the pastor’s age, including; spiritual vitality, small group engagement, less conflict and optimism about the future. Although research lifts up the impact of younger clergy, it also shows that pastors of all ages lead healthy, spiritually vital and alive congregations.

The decline in the number of younger clergy is troubling. So are the challenges, frustrations and ageism expressed and experienced by older clergy.  A respondent wrote that older clergy were trained to lead churches that no longer exist and that there are very few avenues for them to do affordable re-training. To that concern, another respondent wrote there are ways for us to learn from each other, work collaboratively, and develop relationships and learning communities that are multigenerational.  I was encouraged to see such responses and dialogue addressing these concerns.  The reposting of this blog will be worthwhile if further dialogue and action results in raising up each generation and the gifts of all clergy:  young, middle age and older.

How Does Clergy Age Impact Churches?

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