Report finds passing pulpits to millennials a ‘glaring challenge.’

American pastors aren’t as young as they used to be.

As clergy live longer and stay in ministry longer, the average age of Protestant senior pastors has risen to 54—a decade older than 25 years before, when the average age was 44.

Now, just 1 in 7 pastors leading congregations is under 40, according to Barna Group’s 2017 State of Pastors project.

In the new report, Barna president David Kinnaman called the aging pastorate “one of the most glaring challenges facing the church today.”

The pulpit has been graying for decades. In the ’60s, a majority of pastors were under 45. In 2017, most are over 60. The age shift stems from evolving career expectations and difficulty passing leadership on to millennial-aged pastors, Barna reported.

The research, conducted in partnership with Pepperdine University, represents surveys and interviews with 14,000 Protestant pastors.

Older Pastors Staying Put

Today’s pastors are less likely to go from congregation to congregation during their careers. Back in 1992, Barna found the average church tenure was four years, compared to more than 10 years in 2017. (Research by Leadership Network in 2014 indicated that megachurch pastors stay even longer than that; the pastors at America’s 100 biggest Protestant congregations had served for 21 years on average.)

Older clergy may actually have a harder time finding new jobs as they age, forcing them to stay longer. As CT Pastors has reported, when a senior pastor spot opens up, some churches seek out younger candidates who are expected to serve long-term or draw in younger congregants.

Finances also keeps pastors preaching into their 60s, 70s, and beyond. Though a majority of pastors said they were confident about …

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