Blog Template Theology of the Body: The continuing disappearance of young clergy

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The continuing disappearance of young clergy

Christian Century reports that among mainline churches the number of clergy under the age of thirty-five is at its lowest rate ever of five percent. In the Episcopal Church it's around four percent. Some churches are trying new advertising techniques to try to interest more younger adults in careers in ministry. See the article here.

If you ask me, this was inevitable. The number of people under thirty-five in the pews has been steadily declining for decades. It only makes sense that the number of people choosing to enter into orders would similarly be in decline. Though I do not know for sure, I suspect a similar drop in young clergy exists in the Orthodox and Catholic churches in America. In the Roman Catholic Church in particular the crisis created by an overall dearth in clergy is growing to epic proportions, even as the laity grows worldwide.

Some of this is to be expected. After all, young adulthood is a transitional time in which people are just starting to form a sense of their identities as adults. Nevertheless, we should be concerned both about the lack of young adults in our churches and at the growing shortage of clergy in many of our traditions. Both are a sign of decline and fatigue as our culture gives way more and more to secular influences. Most troubling to me is that so many people are not being ministered to. In many churches there is a stalwart attitude against young adults, the old "they'll be back when they have kids" routine. But many of them won't be back, and in the mean time a whole segment of the population is without the benefit of the Church, as is the Church without the benefit of them.