I’ve heard from many pastors over the years that it becomes increasingly difficult to find a ministry position after the age of 55. Most churches are looking to ideally hire someone for fifteen years, putting unrealistic pressure on search committees to search for younger pastors.
Are churches cutting themselves off from seasoned pastoral experience by choosing younger candidates? Let’s take a look at some general trends to consider with younger and older pastors.
The Fear of Hiring an Older Pastor
When a search committee imagines the ideal candidate, they often have an idea of who they don’t want to hire as well. Older pastors in their 60’s or 70’s could potentially have more health problems than pastors in their 30’s or 40’s, and many churches struggle to provide adequate health insurance. They also don’t want to be without a key leader for long in the midst of a health crisis.
Churches also fear that older pastors may struggle to relate to younger generations, may become set in their ways, and may struggle to use technology. Of course, these are all stereotypes, but they may all show up in the mind of a church leader evaluating a pastor for a ministry position.
Are the 30’s to 50’s Ideal for Pastors?
The typical expectation for pastors in their late 30’s is that they may be more likely to have their own personalities, work styles, and strengths figured out. They will have just enough experience to be effective in their ministries without getting stuck on a particular way of doing things.
Pastors in their 40’s and early 50’s are also typically viewed in this kind of light, mixing good health and adequate experience. They may be more likely to understand cultural trends and technology if they have young children or teenagers.
Do Stereotypes of Pastors Really Hold?
The problem with these stereotypes of pastors is that they hardly do justice to the individual pastors who are searching for church jobs today. We see the exceptions to these stereotypes all of the time as we interview candidates for church pastor searches. For instance, pastors in their 60’s may have greater comfort with technology, better physical health, and sounder cultural awareness than pastors in their 40’s.
It’s possible that a church full of millennials may benefit greatly from the experience and wisdom of an older pastor. It’s also possible that some pastors in their 40’s are more set in their ways than pastors in their 70’s who have seen enough trends come and go that they’re willing to try something new. If anything, we’ve seen that pastors over 55 years old may be calmer in the face of ministry adversity and challenges simply by virtue of their experience.
What Does This Mean for Your Pastor Search?
Don’t be afraid to reconsider your expectations for a pastor search, especially a lead pastor search. The assumptions about cultural awareness, use of technology, and health are often blown out of proportion. Each church and pastoral candidate is different, and there may be situations where an older pastor’s experience could prove especially helpful.
Let’s Talk about Your Hiring Strategy
If seeking a new pastor or filling an open position at your church overwhelms you, consider bringing in expert help. At Chemistry Staffing we love helping church leaders conduct efficient, affordable, and effective searches for pastors and church staff.