The average age of U.S. pastors is trending upward, according to a new study released by Barna Group and Pepperdine University, moving from 44 years old in 1992 to 54 in 2017.

Currently, 50 percent of all Protestant pastors in the U.S. are aged 56 or older – 33 percent (56 to 64) and 17 percent (65-plus).

Only 15 percent of all Protestant pastors in the U.S. are younger than 40 (compared to 33 percent in 1992), while 35 percent are aged 41 to 54 (compared to 43 percent in 1992).

“The upward climb did not begin in the 1990s,” the report explained. “In 1968, 55 percent of all Protestant clergy were under the age of 45 – that is, the majority of all church leaders were in their 20s, 30s and early 40s. In 2017, just 22 percent are under 45.”

Among the possible reasons for the trend are an increase in “second-career clergy,” older ministers retiring later as the U.S. recovers from the recent recession, and fewer people from younger generations interested in pursuing vocational ministry as a career.

“It’s not inherently a problem that there are older pastors in positions of leadership,” said David Kinnaman, Barna Group’s president. “The problem arises when today’s pastors do not represent a healthy mix of young, middle age and older leaders. For the Christian community to be at its best, it needs intergenerational leaders to move it forward.”

The full report is available here.

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