LEADERSHIP MATTERS by Roger Yancey, D.Min.

Ten years from now your church may not be able to find a new pastor.

In reviewing the materials found in, The Coming Shortage of Christian Leaders: Facing Facts, Finding the Way by Bruce McAllister from June 2021, the March 2017 article by David Kinnaman of the Barna Group, The Aging of Americas Pastors, and Daniel Yang’s work with the SEND Institute, 5 Trends in Church Planting

Two realities are colliding to cause the present and future challenge the church is and will be facing.

The first is the aging of pastors across America. “The aging of pastors represents a substantial crisis for Protestant churches,” says David Kinnaman, president of Barna Group. “In fact, there are now more full-time senior pastors who are over the age 65 than under the age of 40. It is urgent that denominations, networks, and independent churches determine how to best motivate, mobilize, resource, and deploy more younger pastors.

As the median age of pastors increases there will be an increasing number of churches who find that when their pastor retires, they may not easily locate a viable pastoral candidate. It’s not just pastors median age is getting older but the age of those who surrender to ministry is increasing while the number of those who commit to ministry is not keeping
pace with the present and future needs of the local church. 

The second reality contributing to this growing challenge is the calling out of future ministers has largely declined in many local congregations. It was once a common part of many evangelical church services to ask during a time of invitation if God was calling someone out to Christian ministry. Whether it was to missions or as a minister it was a question people had to grapple with as part of God dealing with them. It was a question heard at camps, student gatherings, university settings, and in their Bible studies but it is a question largely absent in most invitations today.

How can we expect for people to respond to God’s call if we don’t challenge them to deal with it? Just as we ask people to make a decision for Christ, we need to ask them to deal with the possibility of God’s call on their lives. Almost 80% of churches acknowledge they don’t place a significant priority on training and developing the next generation of church leaders. If you speak with ministers over the age of 40 you will find most were part of a church where they were invested in by their pastor or other significant church leader as they were dealing with God’s calling on their life. Unless we purposefully identify, develop, train, and enable future ministers we will find the lack of future church leaders continuing to decline.

What is happening with the aging of church pastors and the lack of calling out the called is directly impacting church planting and the lack of available church planting pastors.

But first let’s examine 5 trends identified by Daniel Yang and the Network Leaders from the Fuller Church Planting Initiative:

1. Demographic Demand Multiethnic Churches. “By 2045 there will be no majority culture. The fastest growing ethnic minority is Asian Americans… The implication for this is the need to recruit diverse planters, as well as training and coaching planters in cultural intelligence (CQ).“

2. The Rise of Micro-Churches. “Micro-churches are uniquely able to reach micro- cultures and other hard-to-
reach areas with the gospel. In contrast to house church movements of the past, which were mostly independent and not interconnected, micro-churches today seem to thrive and to reap benefits from some centralized infrastructure that connects and resources these missionaries.”

3. From Worship Services to Community Engagement. “As post-Christendom settles in and as the next generation increasingly identifies as “nones” and “dones”, church planters must be able to demonstrate the gospel before it is declared. They have to be able to prove in tangible ways that the gospel makes a real difference in the world before they have enough credibility for their message to be received…Churches are moving away from attractions models based on proclamation, and to more missional models that are based on demonstration of God’s love through community engagement.

4. Enlarging the Farm System. “As the first wave of church planting in the 21st century comes to shore, networks are realizing their low hanging crop of leaders — largely youth pastors and parachurch ministers — have all been recruited to plant churches…to tap into new leaders, churches and networks need to be able to identify and develop missional leaders earlier. For example, creating spaces of discernment, normalizing church planting as a legitimate path of calling, and establishing residency and apprenticeship opportunities.”

5. More Co-Vocational Church Planting. “Church planters increasingly see their calling overlapping with the economic marketplace. Rather than spending their time fundraising, and rather than pursuing a job at Starbucks simply to evangelize co-workers, planters are considering how their job can be part of the way they plant a church…The implication is networks can come alongside co-vocational planters to offer business help and even micro-loans that can fuel church plants that are more economically based.” 

With the aging of ministers, the decline of calling out the called, and the necessity for embracing new realities in church planting, it is critical for the church to strategically respond. We need to pray for God to raise up future ministers, for us to regularly issue a call to Christian ministry, and expand our understanding of what will be part of ministry in the future.

God is still a calling God. He may be calling you today to ministry. What will you say?

In Kingdom service,