Most denominations are experiencing declines in attendance and the average age of their congregations progressively increasing. This would not be a surprise to most who attend church. The trend is not confined to a handful of congregations as it is a trend across most congregations. Over the last two decades most denominations have seen membership ages 65 and older rise from around 12 per cent to over 27 per cent. In the same period membership age 39 and younger has fallen from around 31 per cent to less than half that level.
Over the last decade, the number of people entering the ministry has not matched the number who are retiring and departing. A growing number of congregations find that they have to share ministers or combine. This trend will continue, not only because of fewer clergy but also because as congregations age and attendance declines, a growing number of congregations are finding that they cannot afford a full-time minister. With a growing number of parishioners on fixed incomes a church’s budget is becoming increasingly difficult.
The days of the full-time pastor for, except for the largest congregations or those with wealthy parishioners, may well soon be coming to an end. More and more churches will share a full-time minister. There will be more churches that will have ministers working part-time or even full-time in the community. In fifteen years from now there may well be twenty percent fewer churches than today.