by Darren Slade
Having received a larger than expected response to the blog post, “As Pastors Get Older, Churches Start to Die,” I have decided to address a few concerns that have come up. I am personally surprised at some of the negative reactions to what was written, which I thought was quite straightforward (and uncontroversial). What is apparent is that the blog post has struck a nerve with many people, most notably among older ministers and clergy. In one sense, I appreciate the sensitivity surrounding the topic. There appears to be a push in some areas of the church to oust older ministers and recruit younger, more “trendy” leaders. I can see this causing frustration and heartache for a lot of clergy, especially for those who sacrificed their entire youth and devoted their entire life to ministry. It begins to look like a pink slip that reads, “Thank you for your time, but your services are no longer needed. We found someone better.” Older pastors and older congregants start to feel discounted, shoved aside, and forgotten all for the sake of attracting “young blood.”
While this concern is both reasonable and expected, my bewilderment persists. A couple of responses received last week accused me of not valuing the wisdom of older pastors and even suggested that I must think professional pastors should go away completely. Nothing could be further from the truth, and (to be quite honest) I’m not exactly sure how someone could read those things into such a brief post. Another response demanded to know what I plan to do with older pastors, a strange request considering the blog post is meant to have you think about such questions. It’s not my responsibility to have a plan for your aging clergy. Others seem to view the blog as reductionistic, believing it suggests there is only one causative factor for the church’s death. This, too, is not the case. We must not confuse the reporting of one causative factor with the argument for only one causative factor. The post engages in the former, merely reporting about one problem facing the church and, in no way, argues that this is the only or even primary cause for the church’s decline. In fact, you can read an earlier post of mine here where I discuss the myriad of complex factors that lead to church growth and decline.