Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church

Women drive increase in young clergy numbers


Growth in the number of young clergy has been due all to women over the past 10 years, according to the annual report "Clergy Age Trends in The United Methodist Church," released Sept. 9 by the Lewis Center for Church Leadership.

The report on elders, deacons, and Local Pastors is prepared with assistance from the General Board of Pension & Health Benefits.

The denomination’s number of young clergy elders reached a low point in 2005, with 850 active elders under age 35. This year, there are 986 of them.

In the Oklahoma Conference this year, these clergy members are younger than 35:

  • 24 out of 310 active elders;

  • one of 30 deacons; and

  • 15 among 135 Local Pastors.

Gender has been the major factor in the denomination’s young clergy gains. The number of women in that age category increased greatly in the past 10 years.

  • In 2005, there were 263 young female elders. In 2015, there are 404 of them — a gain of 141 women.

  • In 2005, there were 587 young male elders. Now there are 582.

The report noted that deacons have traditionally been predominantly female. Yet, even among young deacons, the percentage of women has made quite a jump: from 68 percent in 2012, to 80 percent in 2015.

And women continue to make up about a quarter of all young Local Pastors.

The report also noted that 55 percent of all active elders are between ages 55 and 72 — the highest percentage in history for that age category.

Clergy elders who are in the middle category, ages 35 to 54, have declined from 65 percent in 2000 to 38 percent currently.

Here is the clergy age distribution in Oklahoma, according to the report.

  • Ages 55-72: 169 elders; 17 deacons; 74 local pastors.

  • Ages 35-54: 117 elders; 12 deacons; 46 local pastors.

  • Ages 34 and younger: 24 elders; one deacon; 15 local pastors.

Five annual conferences showed strong increases in clergy numbers in the past three years. They are California-Nevada, Detroit, Florida, North Texas, and West Ohio.

The Virginia Conference has the most young elders, with 60.

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