Forty eight percent of Australia's preachers are over the age of 50, census figures show, according to demographer Bernard Salt, but there are also 16 Australians under 20 who described themselves as ministers of religion.
New figures extracted from the 2006 census show there are 14,800 ministers of religion in Australia, or about one per 1,500 residents, Mr Salt warns in a light hearted piece in The Australian.
"Within a decade much of this nation's preaching stock could be either retired or doddering into old age," Salt says.
"And the reason is the 7,100 ministers aged 50 plus are backed-up by just 5,300 aged 35-50.
"The pipeline of preachers is petering out," he warns.
"What we need is a 457 visa class designed to snare religious ministers from overseas. This process would be known as vicar-nicking.
"The probable outcome is that over the next decade, ministers will not retire en masse (no pun intended). Rather they will soldier on not so much out a sense of duty to the Almighty but because their services will be in hot demand. They will not be allowed to retire by their needy congregation.
"As baby boomers descend into the abyss that lies beyond 60, and hurtle towards the blinding light of 70, they will seek out the services of spiritual advisers.
"Godlessness was all well and good back at the healthy end of life but now they're heading towards the business end they will want to shore up their options," Mr Salt says.
Better start vicar-nicking as preachers peter out (The Australian, 14/8/08)