In the earlier survey, the breakdown was 43 percent ages 41 to 55; 33 percent 40 and under; 18 percent 56 to 64; and 6 percent 65 or older.
Barna researchers noted that the aging of pastors continues a nearly 50-year trend, noting that in 1968, 55 percent of all Protestant clergy were under age 45.
Barna reported that several factors likely contribute to the shift. First, people are living longer in 1968, male life expectancy was 66 years, compared to 76 today. More pastors also are coming to the pulpit as "second careers," having left or retired from first, secular jobs.
Further, 69 percent of the surveyed senior pastors said it is becoming increasingly difficult to find suitable "mature young Christians" who want to become pastors, a finding that likely prolongs the time senior pastors stay active.
Whatever the reasons, David Kinnaman, president of Barna Group, said the results could have dire repercussions.
"The aging of pastors represents a substantial crisis for Protestant churches," he states. "It is urgent that denominations, networks and independent churches determine how to best motivate, mobilize, resource and deploy more younger pastors."