I’m Talking to You, Baby Boomers

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.

11 responses to “I’m Talking to You, Baby Boomers

  1. A. I think it all has to do with gifts, emotional intelligence, humility RATHER than age or generation.
    B. I’ve tried not to typecast Millennials into this characteristic or that. I think they have enormous gifts for the church.
    C. I think respect is huge-and listening to the other. But it has to be two way.
    D. In an ideal world there would be neither Jew nor Greek . . . etc. and generations would listen and learn from one another with great respect.
    E. Retirement decisions are personal and contain a gozillion variables.


    • Emily McGinley

      When you talk about respect, could you unpack what’s behind that? It shows up in two points, so it seems like there’s something behind that. Do you experience your younger colleagues as disrespectful?


      • I don’t see the respect references here but generally, I hope all generations would be respectful to people with a different life perspective. It’s tricky because what’s important for some people is not as important to others, or it’s important in a different way. This is why relationships are key. So important to talk together & get to know each other.


      • Emily McGinley

        Jan – I wrote this, not in response to your post, but in response to Judy’s. In “C,” she says “respect is huge” and then again, in “D,” there’s a point about “learn[ing] from one another with great respect.” It seemed like there was something being referred to and I was asking for clarification. Hope that helps clarify!


  2. I now attend a church (Presbyterian) that has an older congregation. The members are so smart and creative with much to share with younger members. We just don’t have the younger members, though. We would all love to have younger people attending and taking on some of the responsibilities. You only learn by doing.


  3. In my coaching and interim work, I’ve encountered a number of situations in which a pastor has retired in place. That’s terribly destructive to a congregation – and not good for the pastor either! Consequently, I’m offering retirement coaching that’s in addition to the BOP workshop (which I encourage all pastors to take).

    Bob Harris


  4. Two years ago, I retired after 42 years in the ministry, nearly 37 at my last church. I had enjoyed a great ministry there, loving “my” people and being loved and affirmed by them in return. And, I think, I left when people were still wishing I wouldn’t have. But in the first few months of my retirement, I began to realize how worn down I had become. Not burned out but worn out. And so I enjoyed eight months of absolute stress-free retirement. After that respite, I sensed I wasn’t ready to “hang it up yet,” so I took some training and became an intentional interim — a ministry I am about to complete after 18 months at my church. What a wonderful capstone on my career! I never thought I would use “ministry” and “fun” in the same sentence, but that has been my experience here. We’ve walked through some tough places together (what church hasn’t?), but an interim “owns” the ministry in a very different way from a settled pastor. I recommend it highly (but am now looking forward to going back to being a full-time husband and grampa).

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Jan, I just found my way to this post 3 years after you wrote it. I retired in May, fully engaged in ministry yet ready to be fully engaged in other aspects in life. I’d gathered a clearness committee two years earlier and from that became co-pastor with a younger colleague – me working 3 weeks/month and her one. We worked hard to make it work well. I think the Church needs to explore new models of moving to retirement. So glad I did!


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