Friday, September 30, 2011

Call Waiting: A Church of England Initiative that Worked?

Back in 2008, the CofE launched the Call Waiting initiative, to encourage younger people to explore their calling and possible ordination. You can see the very good website here. A combination of demographics (an ageing church) and short-sighted policy (telling younger prospective leaders to go away and get a job for a few years and then come back to enquire about ordination when they were older - many never came back, and those who did were, well, older.) has resulted in an ageing cohort of clergy. The CofE stats published yesterday note that the average age of ordinands rose from 40 to 43 for men and 35 to 38 for women from 1999 to 2010.

That's ordinands, not clergy. 3/4 of vicars are over 50, and half of those are over 60. At 42, after 13 years of full time ministry, I'm still very comfortably a 'young vicar' in terms of age profile. And that worries me.

But now the good news. From 1998-2000 roughly 100 under-30's were ordained every year. It's not many, but it's ok. From 2001-9 it was nearer 80 a year, getting as low as 71 in some years. If you add on a 3-4 year curacy, that means only a handful who are still under 30 by the time they get their first post with real responsibility.

In 2010, out of nowhere 108 under-30's were ordained, up from 74 in 2009. That's the best figure since I was ordained in 1998. A data table tucked away on p56 of an Anglican stats report isn't exactly exhaustive evidence, but it's encouraging to think there might be a connection between the drive to recruit younger ordinands, and that starting to show up in the figures. It may, of course, be a blip. Or it may be that the CofE is at last waking up to the gifts that younger leaders have to offer.


  1. When my OH was sent for training, we were just 25; he was ordained at 28. There seems to be a culture of wanting younger clergy but of discounting their gifts and dismissing their ideas as young and silly. So young and idealistic clergy slowly become old and jaded!

  2. I wonder whether this rise in vocations in connected to the initiative you mention or to other (economic) factors. In my denomination (the URC) there has also been a marked rise in the number of vocations, with the number of ordinands being at historically very high level.

  3. The reasources are great, I found them really encouraging over the last couple of years as I was discerning my vocation - shame we don't really have a good Welsh equivalent.

    NB I'm not in training yet, 24, hope to start in a couple years.

  4. There certainly seem to be an increase in under 30's training here at Cudddesdon this year compared to last.

  5. It's called unemployment. The numbers at the Inquiry Day at the Unitarians were considerably up.