I did not realise that the Church of England church statistics report included data about ministers and ages as well as all the attendance data. It was interesting to stumble across in the last third of the report, and stumbling I was after forty or so pages. There in front of my eyes was all the data I often wonder about, all in one place.
As of 2009/10 LLMs/Readers made up 25% of the Church of England licensed ministers. Another 9% were retired and retained their permission to officiate; that's 34% of all CofE ministers being lay.
In terms of real numbers there were just under 9,900 LLMs in the church countrywide with 229 in the Diocese of Oxford.
This number is reducing year on year, not because of lack of uptake but because "natural depletion" with age looses huge numbers. In fact looking at the age profiles raises worries about the future of lay ministry in ten years time. There really is a need to find more younger people who are being called to a lay ministry; especially since so much missionary work is perfect for the laity.
So I looked for the definition of younger LLM and found the bracket that shocked me, although I don't know why considering the demographics I see at LLM events. The youngest bracket is "under 40" and only 1% of LLMs in the Church of England are under 40 . What a worryingly small percentage. And although its improving there's still only 5% of those in training being under 40.
I wonder why that is?
Is it because most people with a calling to ministry at a young age are encouraged into the priesthood?
Is it because it's hard to balance family life and work as it is without a ministry?
Is it because people don't know it exists?
Is it because it's seen as a retired ministry?
Is it because younger people find ways of following their calling without a formalised ministry?
I'd love to know what you think.