2013 Clergy Age Trends Report Shows Older Clergy Bubble Growing Larger


 By Lewis Center for Church Leadership of Wesley Theological Seminary

The number of older clergy continues to grow according to the Clergy Age Trends"Clergy Age Trends in The United Methodist Church" report released recently by the Lewis Center for Church Leadership of Wesley Theological Seminary. The annual report is prepared with assistance from the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits of the United Methodist Church.


Older Clergy Reach Historic High as Share of Elders

  • Elders between ages 55 and 72 comprise 54 percent of all active elders, the highest percentage in history. This group reached 50 percent for the first time ever in 2010. This age cohort represented only 30 percent of active elders as recently as 2000. Previously their percentage of the total was even lower.
  • This oldest cohort of active elders makes up 59 percent of elders in the Western Jurisdiction and 58 percent in the Northeastern Jurisdiction.
  • The median age of elders remains at 55 in 2013, the highest in history, reached first in 2010. The median age was 50 in 2000 and 45 in 1973. The average age remains at 53, an historic high, and the mode age (the single age most represented) is now 61, also a high. 

The Percentage of Middle Age Elders Continues to Shrink

  • The percentage of elders aged 35 to 54 continues to shrink, from 65 percent of all active elders in 2000 to 39.81 percent in 2013. In addition, the total number of active elders decreased again in 2013 and all the loss took place in the middle age group, with modest increases in actual numbers for both young and older elders.

The Number of Young Clergy Stays about the Same

  • There are more young elders, deacons, and local pastors than ten years ago, though the percentage of young elders remains low compared to historical patterns, though the trend line is up modestly but consistently.
  • For example, there are more young elders than since before 2000, and the percentage of young elders is higher than since before 2000. Young elders as a percentage of all elders stayed in the 4 percent range in the first half of the 2000s and since then have made steady progress in the 5 percent range, moving closer to the 6 percent or higher range last seen in the 1990s.

Full Report Available for Download


Much more information is available in the complete Clergy Age Trends report, which is available as a free PDF download athttp://www.churchleadership.com/clergyage. It shows the average and median ages of elders by United Methodist conference and features a breakdown of young, middle age, and older clergy by conference for elders, deacons, and local pastors.


The Lewis Center for Church Leadership of Wesley Theological Seminary is pleased to provide this report as a service to the church.