Back in October, I wrote about a hypothesis that we may experience a Clergy Death Tsunami in our denomination like Lovett Weems predicts we will experience in the denomination. You can check out my post on that here. Since then I have worked with the conference office to obtain some statistical data on our clergy. Ed Walk has been extremely helpful in providing this information. I’m not quite sure where I am going with this information, if anywhere, but I thought my four avid readers of this blog might find this interesting. Or I should say, I find it interesting and so I am sharing.
Below is a graph of the age breakdown of some of our clergy in the Western North Carolina Conference. I attempted to concentrate on those who pastor local churches or better said, those affected by the appointment process. This leaves out deacons generally. Plus there are some other clergy out there that don’t fit into these four categories but those numbers are really small. For the sake of simplicity I concentrated on four clergy statuses; Elders in Full Connection (FE); Probationary Elders (PE); Full-Time Local Pastors (FTLP); and Part-Time Local Pastors (PTLP). The age ranges are those under 35, 35-44, 45-54, 55-64, and over 65.
As you can tell the largest group Elders in Full Connection between the ages of 55-64. There are 303 of them. This doesn’t surprise me but it does worry me. Look at the gap in ages. In the FE category, each age bracket drops by almost 100 people. As the next decade passes by what will happen? The number of Probationary Elders cannot make up this deficit. Out of all ages, there are only 110 of them and the largest number of them are 55-64 too.
In order to pastor the number of churches we currently have in the WNCC something will have to happen between now and 2025 in dramatic fashion. As Baby Boomers exit into retirement, age out, or go on to the church triumphant churches will have to figure out how to deal with less clergy. Will this mean more cooperative parishes? Will this mean more churches on charges? Will this mean more church closings? Will this mean Local Pastors taking a larger role?
I don’t have answers but change is coming VERY soon in our conference/denomination. Both on the financial side, which Lovette Weems points out, but also within the clergy leadership within our denomination. This is only the clergy from the Western North Carolina Conference but I have a feeling that other conferences have similar numbers, if not more dramatic.
What are your thoughts? What surprises you, if anything? What questions start to be stirred?