The Research and Evaluation Department of the ELCA released a report in March exploring future trends for supply and demand for clergy in 2016.
The report explores data regarding baptized members, congregations, and pastors in the ELCA between 2005 and 2014.
Here are a few numbers from the report:
Between 2005 and 2014:
- the number of congregations in ELCA has decreased from 10,549 to 9,392
- baptized membership has gone from 4.85 million to 3.78 million
- median size of congregation has gone from 296 baptized members to 247 baptized
- median worship attendees on a Sunday declined from 91 to 70
- the number of congregations with 350 or more in worship has gone down from 676 to 376
- the proportion of congregations in rural or small town areas has not changed much – about 48%
- median income for a congregation has decreased from $151,000 to $117,000.
- the number of clergy serving congregations has declined from 9,105 to 6,868
- ELCA M.Div graduates at ELCA seminaries went down from 245 to 209
- first year enrollments in ELCA seminaries decreased from 310 to 214
In 1988 the average age on the clergy roster was 46-year-old & only 9 % of active clergy were over 60. In 2013 the average had increased to 54 with 32% active clergy over 60.75 to 80 % of seminary graduates have a geographical preference.
The study concludes:
In 2019, we believe that about three‐fourths of ELCA congregations will be able to afford a first‐call, full time pastor and of these congregations, nearly 20 percent will be in pastor sharing relationships. There will be just over 2,000 congregations that will not be able to do so and since the vast majority of these congregations will remain open, their alternatives for pastoral leadership are fairly straightforward. Either these congregations will become part of sharing relationships or they will find supply, part‐time or lay licensed pastors. In places where there is ready access to a significant number of retired pastors, an alternative is to use this pool of clergy. If not, another alternative is to find local people who are willing to become authorized/licensed lay ministers or who are willing to complete a certificate process such as TEEM.
The church needs more persons who will consider ordained ministry and become ordained pastors. Clearly, those concerned about the future of the church should seek out and encourage people they believe might be good pastors and open to the call. Programs to do so should be encouraged and supported by the church.