data from the Fact2000 study
The 41 faith communities represented in FACT have different structures and different names for their designated leaders — pastor, priest, rabbi, imam, and reader. But only two percent of congregations are without a designated religious leader, including part time, interim, and volunteer. The chart at the left shows a breakdown of educational achievement for religious leaders.
[Note: The Roman Catholic, Muslim and Bahá’is surveys did not include questions on clergy education.]
The age of leaders ranged from 24 to 87, with an average age of 51.3 years old. Most clergy (89 percent) are paid, but the presence of volunteer leaders (currently 11 percent) will likely increase because it is associated with some of the fastest growing faith traditions (for instance, Muslim and Mormon).
As a whole, clergy with more formal education tend to serve larger congregations with longer tenures.
The patterns of clergy serving congregations –full time, part time, multiple staff, yoked parish — vary greatly between faith groups, locations and congregational membership size.
Denominations and faith groups are constantly challenged to find and educate new religious leadership for their congregations. Aging leadership affects every group, but the challenge is particularly pronounced in some groups. Indeed, the average religious leader of the Catholic/Orthodox and Historically Black denominational groups is less than a decade away from the typical retirement age of 65, while the Evangelical Protestant and World groups’ leaders have 50 percent more time until they reach 65.
Based on this report, religious leadership should be recognized for its significant contribution to the vitality and growth of congregations. Leaders should be applauded for guiding a remarkably complex array of worship, educational, fellowship and outreach activities. They should be commended for their personal and congregational contributions to the spiritual, social and physical welfare of their communities, often beyond their job description.