The church is facing a leadership crisis and the answer may be a question.
I’m getting older. That’s not a bad thing. In fact, given the alternative, I think it’s a great thing.
I’m not the only one getting older.
On average people today are living longer than fifty years ago. The average life expectancy for an American male born in 1960 was 66; for one born in 2010 it is 76. For a female born in 1960 the life expectancy was 73; for one born in 2010 it is 81.
On average pastors are getting older, too, according to a report released this week by the Barna research group. One finding in the report staggered me. According to the report there are now more pastors in the “over 65” category than there are in the “under 40” category.
There is another trend which, when considered along with our aging clergy, really troubles me.
Seminary enrollment nationwide has been on the decline for some time. Fewer and fewer people are preparing for a career in ministry.
Take these two things together (aging clergy, fewer entering the ministry) and it’s easy to see the church is facing a serious leadership crisis!
The problem is not that there are older pastors in positions of leadership. We need the wisdom they have gained through the years. But we must also work hard “to motivate, mobilize, resource and deploy more younger pastors” said David Kinnaman, president of Barna Group.
As a young person I often heard my pastor (Ben Rogers) talk about being called to the ministry. When he extended the invitation each week, he would invite people to come forward to profess their faith in Christ and be baptized, join the church and surrender to full-time ministry.
The way we extend the invitation in churches today has changed and it troubles me. Churches don’t always invite folks to “come forward” during the invitation as we once did. That's not the change that troubles me. I still hear pastors invite folks to profess their faith in Christ and/or join the church. What I almost never hear is an invitation to surrender to full-time ministry. That's what troubles me.
Maybe we could begin there … by talking about the ministry, sharing our call, asking if God might be calling them into the ministry.
A question from Dr. O. R. Shields set the course for my life. I was in the seventh or eighth grade. I’d given a speech in school which was very well-received. Standing beside my father in church that night I heard him tell Dr. Shields what happened. Turning to me Dr. Shields asked, “Have you ever considered God might use you in the ministry?” I’d never thought about going into the ministry, but after that I couldn’t not think about it. Ultimately his question shaped the course of my life, and I couldn’t be happier about it. I think it is a question pastors and church leaders should ask more often.
The church is facing a leadership crisis and the answer may just be a question.
Click here to read more about the report "The Aging of America's Pastors."