Our denomination collects The Joy Offering each December to benefit church
workers with financial needs. Many of these gifts go to older pastors who find themselves struggling with too little financial support in their post-parish years. Especially in this economy, many of us could find ourselves in need of financial help post-retirement even into the next decade or so.
My friend Carol Howard Merritt wrote recently about the The Young Clergy Crisis and I totally agree that many of my under 40 friends are struggling at least as much as some of my over 70 friends.
Older clergy have obviously paid off their seminary loans but are trying to figure out how to afford to retire, or even how to pay off their mortgages. Younger clergy – many of whom started as associate pastors - find that associate pastor positions have been eliminated. And tiny churches can’t afford FT pastors.
[Note: Tomorrow's Question of the Day will be about our youngest pastors.]
In my own blessed 50-something demographic, I find myself doing ministry that includes:
- Helping congregations in search of pastors and
- Helping pastors in search of church positions.
It makes me happy to be the matchmaker, although the Holy Spirit is obviously in charge.
Several pastors seeking paid positions in the church are over age 65. Maybe they still have mortgages, or maybe they’ve used their savings to help their children, or maybe they’ve depleted their savings to pay medical bills. Several of those who come through my door have sick spouses who haven’t been earning a paycheck themselves for many years and things have been tight for a long time.
Yes, we have tiny churches who basically want a chaplain and they might hire an 80 year old pastor. But more often, congregations want a high-energy pastor who will bring fresh ideas. I know some high-energy pastors over the age of 70 – don’t get me wrong. But I worry that their inability to retire is taking work from younger clergy.
And this is not just an issue for the septuagenarian and older crowd. We all know pastors in their 50s and 60s who find themselves holding onto church positions even though their energy is low, their technological skills are dated, and their leadership gifts are a bit Old School. But they can’t afford to retire quite yet. Maybe they won’t be able to retire for another couple of decades.
So, what do we do about this? As our society is growing older and living longer, I wish I had answers. Any ideas?