Clergy Age Trends- Some WNC Specific Data

September 10, 2015

Age-TrendsThe Lewis Center of Wesley Theological Seminary released its 2015 clergy Age Trends report for The United Methodist Church this week. Here are some highlights from that report:

Numbers of Young Elders Grow Over Ten Years; All Gains from Clergywomen
In 2005, the United Methodist Church reported the smallest percentage of under-35 elders ever. The 850 young elders that year represented 4.69 percent of active elders. Growth among young elders has been slow but relatively steady over the past ten years. In 2015, there are 986 young elders that comprise 6.56 percent of the pool of active elders, a pool now smaller by over 3,000 elders. Gender has been a major factor in the gains to the extent that there are actually fewer young male elders now than in 2005 with all the increases coming from young female clergy.
Fewer Elders, More Local Pastors
Elders and local pastors are appointed as pastors of congregations. The number of active elders continues to decline as the number of local pastors grows. Since 1990 there are 6,488 fewer elders and 3,525 more local pastors. In 1990, there were over five elders for each local pastor; today there are two elders for each local pastor. In 2015, there are 15,019 elders and 7,464 local pastors.
Elders Older Despite More Young Elders
Elders between ages 55 and 72 comprise 55 percent of all active elders, the highest percentage in history. Read the entire report here Some interesting facts from the data related to the Western North Carolina Conference:
  • The mean age of clergy in the WNCC is 52, median age is 55
  • With 676 Elders, WNCC has more Elders than any other Annual Conference (we also have the largest number of ordained clergy 733, and the largest total number of clergy-which includes local pastors- 975)
  • 7.4% of the Elders in WNCC are under age 35 (the national average is 6.57%)
  • 8.77% of our Deacons are under age 35 (national average is 9.43%)
  • 11.16% of our Local Pastors in WNCC are under 35 years of age (national average is 8.05%)
Below is a chart of percentage for all clergy in age groups in WNCC
Under 35 35 to 54 55 to 72
Elders 7.40% 42.46% 50.15%
Deacons 8.77% 54.39% 36.84%
Local Pastors 11.16% 37.60% 51.24%