Young, male and married

What search committees want

Churches seeking a new pastor tend to want a man under 40, preferably married to a nonworking woman who volunteers on church committees. It’s a caricature, but only slightly so, says sociologist Adair Lummis, who is describing not congregations from the 1950s, but those today. This preference exists “even in those denominations which have ordained women to full ministerial status for 50 years or more,” according to her little-publicized nationwide study.

The preference for a male may be unspoken or obliquely voiced by search committees, especially in liberal Protestant denominations where “it is totally unacceptable to refuse” pastor candidates because of gender, race or ethnicity, and it is “frowned upon” to make age or marital status an issue, said the study, published last year as part of the Pulpit & Pew project at Duke Divinity School.


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