I will be 65 years old next week (and will try not to talk it incessantly because I think about it incessantly.)
Being 65 makes me eligible for Medicare and marks fifteen years since I could join AARP. I could say so many things about aging here but I won’t.
Instead, I want to talk about clergy retirement.
I’ve written a bit on 60-somethings in our congregations and some of those posts have hurt my colleagues feelings. That was not my intention. It is my intention as an institutional church person to devote my life to helping congregations thrive and expand the reign of God and make disciples of all nations.
As I did when I was a pastor serving a congregation, I have a small group of people I trust to tell me the truth. One of their primary responsibilities these days is to tell me when it’s time to retire and I am confident they will do this.
In my denomination, it’s lucrative to retire when you are 70 years old if you are vested in our pension system. And it’s also true that churches do not tend to call new pastors who are 60+ in age.
So, here’s what sometimes happens: A pastor is – say – 62 and wants to retire at 70 but that pastor has lost energy and the desire to learn new things. There is no steam left to shift the culture of that congregation.
This is especially dangerous in these days as we discern what the Post-Pandemic Church will look like. A struggling congregation cannot survive 2 to 10 years of leadership under a pastor who will not or cannot pivot to serve a Post-Pandemic Church.
As I discern these things personally, I am begging my Boomer colleagues to talk about these things with the LORD:
- Am I one of the first to say ‘yes’ when elders and deacons present fresh ideas for our congregation to consider?
- Am I excited about Sunday mornings? Sunday evenings? Tuesday afternoons doing my ministry?
- Have I surrounded myself with people who help me dismantle doing things “the way we’ve always done it?” for the sake of the Gospel?
- Am I willing to learn from younger leaders?
- Do I feel hope for the future of our congregation?
If you answer “no” to any of these questions, please consider retirement in the next year, my beloved 60-something colleagues.
The truth is that it’s not about age. It’s about energy, intelligence, imagination, and love. And yet if you find yourself at a place where your energy is depleted, your desire to learn is negative, your imagination has leveled out, and you don’t love ministry the way you used to love it – please, for the love of God – retire this year.
I don’t mean to offend, but our churches will suffer to the point of no return without hopeful, dynamic, servant leadership. We need pastors who are pumped to move our congregations into the future with impactful ministry in the name of Jesus Christ.
P.S. If you don’t know that this is a post for you, ask around. Ask your colleagues, your family, and those trusted parishioners who are not ‘yes people.’ Listen to what God is telling you in prayer.