More About Young Clergy

Fifty-something Presbyterian pastor, Jan Edmiston chimes in on the young vs. old clergy smackdown:

Several pastors seeking paid positions in the church are over age 65.  Maybe they still have mortgages, or maybe they’ve used their savings to help their children, or maybe they’ve depleted their savings to pay medical bills.  Several of those who come through my door have sick spouses who haven’t been  earning a paycheck themselves for many years and things have been tight for a long time.

Yes, we have tiny churches who basically want a chaplain and they might hire an 80 year old pastor.  But more often, congregations want a high-energy pastor who will bring fresh ideas.  I know some high-energy pastors over the age of 70 – don’t get me wrong.  But I worry that their inability to retire is taking work from younger clergy.

And this is not just an issue for the septuagenarian and older crowd.  We all know pastors in their 50s and 60s who find themselves holding onto church positions even though their energy is low, their technological skills are dated, and their leadership gifts are a bit Old School.  But they can’t afford to retire quite yet.  Maybe they won’t be able to retire for another couple of decades.

So, what do we do about this?  As our society is growing older and living longer, I wish I had answers.  Any ideas?

Of course, I don’t have an answer. But that is part of the problem: we have Baby Boomer pastors that really can’t afford to retire just yet, a number of young pastors with a ton of debt, and a lot less churches than their used to be. Not a good mix does this make.

Which is why I go back to the DIY/tentmaking idea. It’s something that I had to do in my own call. If we are truly called to active ministry, we might have to have a job on the side that can pay the bills and also can give us medical and retirement, because the numbers right now aren’t looking good for full-time ministry for anyone under the age of 45.

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