How Old Are Most Southern Baptist Pastors?

Here is an interesting chart from LifeWay Research showing the average age of Southern Baptist Pastors. I was surprised to see that over half of all SBC senior pastors are 50+.

It seems that the guys being trained now won't be the real majority of senior pastors for several more years.

Do these numbers surprise you?

What significance does this have on the churches?

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Comments are open.

- posted by Tony Kummer, April 21, 2007


WorshipLeader said...

It is interesting to see these numbers in the wake of the announcement of a decline in baptisms. Many of the anti-reformed crowd in the SBC like to blame the young calvinist pastors for splitting churches, for not having evangelistic zeal, for not growing churches (baptizing), etc... This information, coupled with the Lifeway report about the small percentage of those who call themselves Calvinists make an interesting statement.

Statistically, can it be true that baptisms are down because of reformed ministers? Can it be true that churches are being split routinely by reformed pastors?

It does not, however defend the ministries of any reformed ministers, but it pokes a gaping hole in the theory that our problems are from young reformed angry blogger calvinists.

Thanks for all you do here at this blog. It is a great resource for us at Southern and for others in the wider SBC. Have a great weekend.

Tony Kummer said...

Thanks for your comments. I'm adding you to our aggregator.

Seeing this graphic made me realize that the positive changes in theological education will take many years to be fully evident in the churches.

Timmy Brister said...

If SBTS and other seminaries in the SBC are producing hundreds of pastors each year, where do you think they are going? While I would love to believe that all will find pastorates in the SBC, I am afraid that they are increasingly looking elsewhere. I think many in our generation are frustrated with the politiking of the SBC produced by the soldiers of the Reformed Resurgence (as necessary as it was) and are seeking identification, cooperation, and networking without all the excess baggage.

Not only this, there is the strong push or a politically correct Calvinist - that is, a pastor who is Reformed must take the initiative to go to a pastor-search committee and tell them all their theology to a predominately biblically illiterate and theology uniformed minds. What they do know is that "C" word is bad, and that's all that matters. Danny Akin, Paige Patterson, Frank Page, and Morris Chapman have all recited the politically correct talking points in handling the Reformed Resurgence in the SBC. Realizing that it cannot be eradicated, they can at least marginalize or scandalize it.

Take for instance the 3000+ predominately young pastors at the T4G Conference. 90% were under the age of 40. Where are they pastoring?

Consider also that something like 10,000 churches in the SBC did not baptize a single person. That's one out of every four churches. If half the pastors in the SBC are over 50 and 25% of the churches are functionally dead, what does this say about the current condition of the SBC? Moreover, if this elder generation has no successors, then what will this say about the condition of the SBC in 10-15 years?

Finally, I would also mention that many of the younger generation are seeking involvement in missions which is not factored in this analysis.

Stephen Newell said...

These numbers, while interesting, are not surprising to me. In fact, these numbers explain a few things and make other things glaringly clear.

It explains why most of our churches are still living in the 80s and 90s -- their pastors still act like their day is relevant.

It makes clear that the "young pastors splitting churches over theology" thing is a myth. A MYTH! If only 3% of churches have a pastor 30 or under, that makes such a thing a near-urban legend. It gives us good reason to seriously question people who like to show up on blogs and say their church split over their pastor's theology. We've played with kid gloves on issues like that.

It makes clear that the SBC is going to die one day unless it can keep its young and aspiring ministers. Where are they? They are out there starting their own churches and doing it nondenominationally. They are toiling in underpaid, underappreciated staff positions in SBC churches. Some are quite frankly bolting for other denominations because their stomachs can't handle a little "SBC Indigestion." As far as that last category of guys, it's quite obvious that we who stay aren't doing a good job of giving them Pepto-Bismol.

The SBC seems to have always been known as a "tough" group of preachers and church members. Until the older generation wakes up and starts realizing our generation (those who stay SBC anyway) is just as tough, they're going to keep playing kingmakers. Until our generation wakes up and starts clamoring to get off the bench instead of quitting the team, we're going to continue getting looked upon as young whippersnapper church splitters.

Tony Kummer said...

Helpful comments. I would guess that many of the SBTS grads under 40 are serving in other capacities. I know of situations where a church has pastor/elders.

I know a lot of guys who are into church planting or international missions for many of the reasons you cited.

I've heard a large # of Seminary grads don't stay in the ministry. Do you think this might be an issue?

Maybe Dr. Stetzer can do some research on where they are all going.

Tony Kummer said...

I'd like to take you point a little farther -

Churches are getting who and what they want for pastors. The SBC is largely composed of small and culturally Christian congregations. Guys who are doing 80s style ministry is what a lot of churches are looking for.

The question is why do churches look for pastors like that?

Timmy Brister said...

A little typo:

I said:

"produced by the soldiers of the Reformed Resurgence . . ."

I meant to say:

"produced by the soldiers of the Conservative Resurgence . . ."

I think it would be excellent research topic to see just where all the graduates of our seminaries over the past five years have gone.

It would also be interesting to see what their confessional and theological convictions are, what they think about the current SBC mileau, and what role if any they desire to have in the future.

After Greensboro, there were folks saying that the young leaders in the SBC were demanding places of leadership on boards, committees, etc. From my experience and the people I have talked to, that perception couldn't be further from the truth. If they haven't left, they simply want to pastor their churches, love their people, and do God's work without the Convention or association arbitrarily legislating their preferences as SBC morality (such as the alcohol issue) or narrowing the camp beyond the BF&M.

Stephen Newell said...

I remember that. That seems to have come out of the whole "toe the line or you won't get a denominational job" nonsense that was going around in the months before and after Greensboro. Seems some people looked at those who pointed out the obvious absurdity of such behavior and took it to mean they were demanding denominational jobs.

G. Alford said...

One observation that has not been mentioned so far is that if this trend continues the SBC will suffer a severe shortage of “Traditional Church” Pastors in the near future…

Even now the average Southern Baptist Churches (I define average as around 100 members) are having a very hard time finding qualified candidates for the Senior Pastor position… and if your church is below 100 members the search for a solid candidate can be quite desperate.

The reality is that as more and more of our young men reject the “Traditional Baptist Church” model (where the church is run by the Deacons, or worse by a single Church Boss) these churches are going to find themselves more and more with empty pulpits.

Grace to all,

Tony Kummer said...

The job thing is a real issue for many young guys. I've heard of pastors warning young guys not to get too into certain theologies for this very reason.

You bring up an excellent point. Many churches see younger pastors with their new ideas a threat. Who can blame them - they've endured every fad that comes out of seminaries over the last 50 years.

At some point one would think that coming from a big SBC seminary will be a black mark on your resume for some of these churches. They might prefer someone from Liberty or Mid America.

GUNNY said...

I find it interesting that there are about as many in their 30s as in their 60s, as I'm in the former.

Assuming that those 14% in their 30s remain senior pastors and that there are folks in their 30s serving as APs, etc., one can see how the 40s and 50s really climb, but I'm curious as to why so few in the 60s.

Are they retiring, taking non-senior pastor positions, getting burned out, or going to glory?

I'd be curious as to tenure in each category as well. In other words, in each category how many years has he been ordained or serving on a staff or been a senior pastor.

Thanks for sharing this info.

P.S. Great questions, Timmy Brister.

Stephen Newell said...

I share that pain. I'm not even a 5-pointer and I got told to be careful about my study of Calvinism over the past two years. Then I used the words "total depravity" in a sentence (and Powerpoint slide) in a sermon last month and got a lecture, even though it is well known that I am not a Calvinist. I even got told that I "needed to compare verses" and stuff, as if I hadn't already spent two years' worth of personal study time doing just that. Sheesh.

Tony Kummer said...

The drop off in the 60s is interesting. I would imagine that some retire or transition into denominational work. Let's hope LifeWay Research does another study like this with more details.

At some point you start to wonder who you're really working for. The church might write your check but God will account for your teaching. Almost everyone thinks this is going to be a problem. There are many theological issues being recovered at the Seminaries that churches don't want to hear about. Regenerate membership, elders, all-out missions to reach the unreached ect. . .