Aging Clergy and Healthy, Growing Congregations
by Petr Cincala, PhD, Institute of Church Ministry, Andrews University
and Rene’ D. Drumm, PhD, University of Southern Mississippi
The following is adapted from a presentation delivered by the aforementioned authors at the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion/Religious Research Association meeting in October 2018.

Does the age of a clergy member correlate with the health of the congregation to which they minister? Also, does the age of clergy impact the age of their congregation? Using the recent study (2015) conducted by Faith Communities Today , we examined these questions, along with others, to determine how clergy age impacts their congregation. A total of 3,847 local congregations were surveyed as part of this study.

The data from this study revealed that younger clergy appear to be driving the largest share of congregational growth in the United States. As such, congregations where young clergy lead are rated as being healthier than congregations lead by older clergy. Aging clergy tend to head congregations comprised primarily of older congregants. Similarly, when clergy rely on congregants to complete a survey, younger clergy reach out to younger congregants to participate, while older clergy request older adults to respond.
Interestingly, a 10-year study (2008-2017) conducted by Natural Church Development confirmed these findings. Additionally, the NCD study found that the leadership styles of pastors is somewhat linked to age. Amongst younger pastors, leadership styles are more goal-oriented, whereas older pastors tend to be more focused on serving and/or be more people-oriented.
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