A few years ago, I was talking with a 60-something pastor and our conversation went something like this:
Pastor: I’m pretty tired but I can’t retire yet. I still have a mortgage.
Me: How’s the energy level in your congregation?
Pastor: It’s hard to get anyone to do anything. But I can hang on. Preach old sermons. Do the basics. I’ve done some calculations and there’s enough money in the endowment for me to retire about the time I celebrate my 72nd birthday.
What I wanted to say was “Get behind me Satan.” How dare we stay in a pastoral position – with little or no energy – long enough to drain a congregation’s endowment?
That’s an extreme example. But we can all name pastors who waited too long to retire. Their congregations suffered from a lack of energy and imagination, if not intelligence and love too. For some of those congregations, by the time the pastor retired, they had reached a point of no return in terms of their capacity to be The Church.
We can also name pastors who retired with a great deal of energy and creativity. I know superb pastors who reinvented themselves through the years and took imaginative risks up to the last day of their tenure. I call them Seasoned Allies and I want to be like them. (Note: Today is my 61st birthday which also happens to be National Napping Day – almost like the cosmos is suggesting I slow down.)
Retirement is looming for the majority of our PCUSA pastors and we 50/60-somethings are called to leave a strong and healthy Church for the next generations of leaders and followers.
I’m in Kansas City for the NEXT Church National Conference this week. And I’m leading a workshop today called Seasoned Allies. This will be an opportunity for Baby Boomer pastors to discuss how we might make way for younger leaders to take the helm.
If you are, yourself, a Boomer, I’d love to hear your thoughts on your own retirement expectations. If you identify as Generation X or Millennial, I’d love for you to share what you’d like Boomers to know. Thanks. I’ll report back.