TAYLORS, S.C. (BP)–In the month of May, I will be privileged to speak at the graduation ceremonies of two seminaries and at least one college. Over the last eight months, I have spoken at all of our Southern Baptist seminaries in one format or another. I have also spoken at a large number of state Baptist colleges. It has truly been exciting to see the quality and passion of the students in these institutions.
While there are record numbers of students in our colleges and seminaries, one particular factor is raising a strong red flag for me. It seems that there are decreasing numbers of students who wish to be pastors of what we might call traditional Southern Baptist churches. While we certainly want sharp and passionate leaders in other areas of ministry, we also need for many to be open to ministry in the large number of churches that will be needing leaders and pastors in the days ahead.
The second reason for concern is that the number of pastors who currently occupy places of leadership are a part of a “graying” group. According to statistics from LifeWay Research, the average age of the senior pastor in Southern Baptist life is 52. While that is not in and of itself a disturbing trend, the statistics also show that only 17 percent of pastors are 40 and under. Twenty-four percent of pastors are 60 and older. Fifty-six percent of pastors are 50 and up.
Therefore, my concern is simply that an older, pastoral leadership combined with decreasing numbers who seem to want to pastor traditional churches should lead us to a prayer that God would encourage many seminarians to give a new look at serving as pastors of traditional churches. I assure you that traditional churches can transition into break-out, mission-minded, evangelistic congregations. Let us remember the words of our Lord Jesus who told us to pray for laborers in the harvest. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest, to send out workers into His harvest” Matthew 9:37-38.
Frank Page is president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of First Baptist Church in Taylors, S.C.