The age of senior pastors has gotten older over the years, and these leaders are finding it more difficult to identify younger pastors to fill their shoes, according to the results of a Barna Group study conducted in partnership with Pepperdine University.

The ‘State of Pastors 2017’ study released on January 26 showed that the median age of pastors is 54, which is 10 years older than the median of 25 years ago. It also found that only 1 out of 7 lead pastors of churches is under the age of 40.

“This is a critical issue if we’re going to have the ranks of young leaders filling the pipeline of spiritual leadership today,” David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group, was quoted as saying by The Christian Post.

However, a significant majority of pastors believe that it’s “becoming more difficult to identify promising pastoral candidates,” as 69 percent of pastors said so in the study.

But an even larger majority — 9 out of 10 pastors — said that they would recommend the vocation to younger Christians.

The study pointed to several factors as possible reasons for the challenge of passing down the pastoral role to the younger generation. For instance, a Christianity Today report noted that the “economic pressures on middle-class and working families are being passed on to local churches, and the financial and ministry implications are immense.” Moral standards in society are also becoming more and more based on self or personal preferences, rather than on external authorities such as the Bible or the church, the report said.

Despite the bleak results found in the study regarding younger pastoral leadership, Kinnaman encouraged church leaders to remain hopeful.

“The Holy Spirit has sustained the church for a couple thousand years now and shows no sign of calling it a day. Let’s trust the Spirit’s sustaining power not to quit, and prepare for the future,” he was quoted as saying by Christianity Today.

Meanwhile, the study also found that most current pastors believe they are doing well in their respective ministries and personal lives. It showed that 91 percent of pastors believe they have a “good overall quality of life,” and 88 percent say their spiritual condition is “excellent” or “good.” 70 percent of pastors said they believe their relationships with family are “excellent.”