Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Where Have The Young Pastors Gone?

Where have the young ministers gone? More and more I read statistics that show the pastorate is graying across most evangelical denominations. And in my personal experience, more and more young ministers do not want to make their tie to a denomination too firm, or they just avoid it altogether. One seminary professor I spoke with recently remarked that we were not facing a demographical problem in the near future; we are smack in the middle of one. In his words, in ten years there will not be enough pastors to head up the churches we have now.

Why is this happening? I would love to hear from some who either know pastors in this category, or are in it themselves.

Some thoughts on what I think is going on.

Often as denominations grow they become overly bureaucratic and entrenched in their ways. Young ministers sometimes find themselves in the unenviable position of accepting their grandfather’s culture and fitting into a top-heavy system, or bucking the trend and fighting tension along the way.

Often an “old guard” confuses theological and doctrinal integrity with cultural norms they are comfortable with. Instead of discerning the things that just simply change with time apart from doctrinal cornerstones, they may confuse the two causing more tension and frustration in younger ministers trying to reach younger generations.

There may be far too much individualism built into a younger generation of pastors. Where previous generations may have been more amenable to accepting the “way things are” and working with the system, the last two or so generations have been raised on cultural flux and change for the sake of it. They are used to change to a degree that they may grow to dislike stability, which is far from a good thing.

The calling of pastor is a pathetic shadow of what it should be. The last several decades have seen the degrading of the biblical calling of spiritual shepherd to a specialized and under trained form of marketing guru. I am convinced that most evangelical pastors, if asked to describe their role as pastor, would sound more like business executives and therapists than spiritual shepherds. If being a pastor now means you could do a similar job across the street for three times the pay, then why exactly should one become a pastor?


Rusty said...

Excellent thoughts, Phil.

Being AG, you may already know about this site, but if not, please check it out:

Future AG

Phil Steiger said...


Another pastor friend of mine sent me that link a couple of weeks ago. It is an interesting time for our denomination, and if they will be involved, younger ministers really may have an impact.

The Gyrovague said...

Phil, I am in the young minister boat.

I choose to be EFCA alligned because I believe they are heavy on accountability (as a denomination should be) but lighter on cramming theology.

I am a theologian (I think) and love to exegete good text and share it. I do not want to feel like I have to sqelch what God is giving me just to teach and stay in that "denominational line" If I feel tongues is a gift... preach it. If I were Baptist I would be teaching false doctrine and subject to discipline.. what then?

Ultimately I have to answer in my concious mind to God and him alone. I think this is why a young generation of pastors is finding less growth opportunities in bureaucratic denominations and more freedom in EFCA, Calvary Chapel etcetera.

Just my two cents though.

Phil Steiger said...

I don't know as much about the EFCA as I do Calvary Chapel, but I would agree that the broad doctrinal basis supplied by those philosophies is appealing. In addition, I am a gigantic supporter of the method of verse-by-verse exegesis for semonizing, and I love that it is encouraged by those denominations.

Nathan said...

I was a young pastor - youth, but probably would have moved up in age groups down the road, possibly into a teaching pastor role. But I got burned by the internal politics of a specific church, not a denomination. Poking around on the web, I've run into quite a few similar stories where youth pastors in their first jobs end up getting chewed up and spit out. Rather than being put in the position to be burned like that again, and being forced to sell a house we had just bought, to move, and possibly worst of all, find a home for a wonderful dog, I figured I'd find another job to make a living and find ways to volunteer in the church. Maybe its bureaucracy or too much emphasis on doctrinal distinctives that keep some young pastors out, or maybe its the old pastors themselves.

Phil Steiger said...


Those kinds of stories are really very sad for me. I saw a stat that said the average tenure of a youth pastor is about 2-4 years--that is absolutley no good either for churches, youth groups or for youth pastors. I have also hear similar stories as yours.

Do you feel that if you found the right position in the right church if you would do it full-time again?

Pastor Matt said...


I stumbled across your blog. I am a young pastor (started last year when I was 21). While in college working on my degree, I remember my friends & fellow students being terrified of jumping into a pastorate right out of college (and I'll admit, I was a bit afraid myself). After nearly 2 years "on the job", I can agree with what you've written.
Becoming a pastor in a Denomination (I am Wesleyan) is a difficult challenge. As you have said, nearly every one of my "peers" are grey headed. My experience has been that we (the young) get pushed aside as "just a young pup."
While I agree with the doctrine and requirements of my denomination, I can see areas in which they aren't being related well to my generation. A new way of implementing an old idea isn't all that exciting to a pastor who has been doing it the same way for 40 years (probably due to fear of change!). Sadly, I think that's a big reason why the church has lost my generation - the majority of pastors are two or more generations behind in understanding and implementing what it means to be a follower of Christ.

Anyways, most of my friends went on to be Youth pastors, or just to flounder around and take a secular job. The Pastorate is not a very exciting job for an "entry level candidate".