- An embattled 59 year old pastor shares that “if he can only stick it out” for 11 more years, he can finally retire.
- A pastor less than 5 years from retirement confides that he’s done the math and there’s just enough endowment left in his church coffers to get him to retirement, and then the church can close.
- A pastor shares that his mortgage will be paid off in three years, so he needs to keep working even though he’s pretty much out of energy.
Yesterday’s blog post hit some nerves, and as I wrote, there are certainly vibrant sexagenarian pastors out there as well as some uncompelling forty and fifty-something pastors. But it’s easier for the young pastors to make a change when a change is needed. A forty-something pastor can make vocational shifts more easily than someone on the cusp of 70. And yet . . .
In our particular Presbytery, several of our churches have called pastors in their late 50s and early 60s over the past three years. Those pastors have displayed energy, teachability, and a professional/spiritual life that has continued to grow and expand. A couple of them had previously started new congregations or new forms of worship. They still read widely, attended conferences, and were current on 21st Century theological conversations.
I remember another colleague in another Presbytery who shared that he “taught continuing education classes” he didn’t “take continuing education classes.” He considered further education unnecessary, and it showed. I know very few pastors in the second half of their careers who seek spiritual direction.
While many say that these are tough times for the Institutional Church, I believe it’s actually a fantastic time to be engaged in professional ministry. We are reassessing why our congregations exist and what’s breaking God’s heart in our neighborhoods. Some of us have “little to lose” and so we let go of everything we previously trusted that was not God. We find ourselves free to be more authentic and declare that we – too – have been giving too much attention to the things that kill community rather than those things that enhance it. This is a great time to be the church.
God deserves our best and it can’t be about our mortgage and our pension and our resume, no matter what our age. But how can we assist those on the threshold of retirement to leave their churches better than they found them – if not in terms of numbers or programs, then at least in terms of spiritual depth?