The Church of England’s Middle Aged Spread

June 4, 2016 § 5 Comments

I am MAS  – the C of E’s Middle Aged Spread – and  I am a “problem”.

The latest Ministry Statistics show a preponderance of clergy aged 55 – 61. Though ordinations are increasing, even the most optimistic of projections show the number of stipendiary clergy reducing over the next 20 years.Bulge

The statistics are here. People like Ian Paul and Peter Ould, here, and David Keen, here, have looked into them closely. Whether I am a problem because of a “disastrous decision” in the 1990s to ordain older people, or I am a problem because I was a younger ordinand in the 1980s, I am a problem, because I’m going to retire, and there’s a gap behind me.

If I don’t much like being depicted as a problem to be solved, because it saps my energy, how might MAS be included in the solution? Why not work with me in two areas: later retirement; and the ‘last post’?

A lovely graph in the 2012 statistics – Fig 12 here (but not developed in the 2015 figures) – showed the effect of delaying the average age of retirement by just one year. It was nearly the same as increasing ordinations by 25%. Doing both would make quite a difference, wouldn’t it?

The reality is that, full pension or not, I am likely to go for retirement earlier rather than later. If I’m an incumbent I am heading for burn out. David Keen has shown that 5000 stipendiaries are sustaining a ministry pattern once undertaken by at least 10,000. I am 55 – 61, and I don’t have the energy I once did.

So: sit me down and get me to look carefully at how you can get the best out of me for the next ten to fifteen years, not the next five.

Give me one of those whizzy health checks you give to Bishops and senior clergy as they are appointed. Give me active encouragement to invest all I can in my spiritual and physical well-being. Yes, I know that’s been the message drummed in to me from the beginning, but tailor it and target it for me. (I am numerous enough for this to be done economically too – discount for a bulk order).

The next post I’m looking for is likely to be my last. So offer models of ministry and growth which go beyond getting a hipster millennial to plant something – fab though that is. Recognise that I am likely to be turned down in favour of a younger model, unless posts are identified where age and mileage will be an advantage, not a problem. Manage the expectations of those writing job descriptions and doing interviews.

Update my software. I can be a decent mentor to these young things whizzing through the processes. Yes, they are young enough to be my offspring. Get me excited about how I can foster vocations and mentor younger generations. I can be taught new tricks too, and they might need a wise head (if I’ve learnt anything…).

When I retire, think carefully about how my ministry can be continued. There are more clergy with PTO – the majority retired – than stipendiaries at present. Is House for Duty the only option for the deployment of the retired? Are there other models of focussed ministry in the years from 65 – 80? Invest in your officers for retired clergy – the numbers are worth it.

I am MAS. I am large enough (in numbers!) to be treated as a “thing” and am worth investing in. I am not just a retirement problem to be anticipated, I am a resource which can make a difference now.

The 2025 statistics should make interesting.

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§ 5 Responses to The Church of England’s Middle Aged Spread

  • St says:

    Important post. Thanks. One additional thought. I have been clearing out a flat for a member of the generation above mine. I have noticed that I have the looks, physical health and energy of people who were at least ten years younger than me twenty five years ago. Even at sixty one I still have enough energy to keep up with the kids. I am doing my first ever church planting project at this age. I find it had to believe I can retire this decade. Right, off for my chest X-ray.

  • Ian says:

    Jeremy, thanks for these superb and insightful (and heartfelt) observations.

    I wonder how these can be fed into the Renewal and Reform agenda?

    • Thanks Ian. Perhaps a well placed member of the Archbishops’ Council might have an idea…?
      Actually I’m pleased that it’s been posted on the R and R Facebook page by the Director of Comms, and the Secretary General has been in touch. He’s brought it to the attention of Julian Hubbard and Jamie Harrison (and will include this when he and I meet about another matter later in the month). Simon Sarmiento has also bundled it with other responses to the stats.
      Thank you to you and Peter Ould – I’d be interested in Peter’s thoughts on what kind of difference later retirement would make. Though, clearly, preventing earlier retirement is paramount!

  • Martyn Taylor says:

    Jeremy, my father who was ordained spent seven years of his retirement from 66-74 serving the Anglican Communion as interim Dean of Cairo Cathedral and on the staff at St Matthew’s Addis Ababa under Bishop Mounir. He found that the pensions board had very prescriptive housing rules which almost stopped them being allowed to serve abroad. Bp Michael Scott Joint was really helpful here in writing supportive letters encouraging the Pensions board to think more missionally about their retirement housing provision.

  • Loui24 says:

    Reblogged this on An Anglican on the Road and commented:
    I am one of the young ones, preparing for ordination, God willing, next year; in the next couple of years, I will be sitting at the bottom end of that pretty graph. I firmly believe that the Church should be invested in the health an wellbeing of its clergy: all too often in my short life have I seen clergy on the brink of collapse with too much to do, and too little time and resourses. If the church is able to do as Rev Fletcher suggests, by delaying retirement and encouraging mentoring to us little ones, the next generation of clergy – me – might avert burn out. Even those who leave ministry all together might be reduced, and over all we will have a healthier ministry model for the future.

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