Guest Blogger: More on Retirement from a Retired Church Leader

Note: One of my gifted colleagues Mary Marcotte shared her response to yesterday’s post and she has given me permission to share it with you.  

Yesterday’s post on retirement struck a real chord for me.  I’ve worked with pastors (and educators) who had essentially retired in place.  My observation is both they and their congregations suffer. 

I’m three and a half years into my retirement and think I’ve found my rhythm.   My retirement date was as much to do with the state of Presbytery finances as it was with my personal needs.  I’ve been lucky enough to never have used my salary to put food on our table, unlike so many of our colleagues. 

In early days of retirement I was delighted to continue supply preaching  and to be able to commit to teaching a long term, in depth Bible study.  About six months into retirement we moved to Dallas, within the bounds of a different Presbytery.  We’ve settled into our new church home (actually the first congregation I served as an educator and where we raised our children.) I have a wonderful network of educator friends and enjoy keeping my mind sharp by joining with a group of fabulous retired educators in an on line book group.  I continue to be involved in the Association of Professional Christian Educators and my congregation’s Director of Faith Formation knows I have her back.

That is probably more than you need to know, but a bit of background to a couple of observations.

I think many pastors (and other church professionals) hold on too long because they don’t know who they are if they are not the pastor of their congregations.

They realize that if they do a good job of observing separation ethics, they will be losing touch with all their friends and are not sure how to make new ones.

I think presbytery’s could fill a wonderful function if they helped folks begin to navigate these issues in the years looking toward retirement.  A  few great questions are:

  • What about your ministry would continue giving you joy if you were not being paid to do it?
  • What about your current ministry exhausts you or no longer engages your heart?
  • What new skill have you developed in the last year?
  • What new insight have you gained in how scripture speaks to the issues of our time?
  • What new initiative would you love for your congregation to engage
  • What friends do you have beyond your own congregation?

You get my drift. 

I worked with Rev. Jim Atwood in his last year of ministry before retirement and remember vividly his story of coming to the realization that it was time to retire.  He was in Alaska, watching a sled dog demonstration and someone asked how they knew when a dog was ready to retire.  The answer was when the driver pulled out the sled and the dog was no longer jumping up and down to be chosen, the canine version of “Pick me!”  He realized he was no longer jumping up and down, yet that was not the whole story.  Jim was able to devote his next 20 years to the issues relating to gun violence.  That fed his soul and made a difference to so many lives.

I no longer suffer from ‘helium hand’ as one former colleague described the reactive need to volunteer for all tasks.  I was shocked to find myself NOT apply to write curriculum.  I am clear that I will NOT re-up  to serve in my current APCE leadership role, and I am committed to making space for the next generation of leaders and to provide whatever support they might need.  I’m far clearer on this as I anticipate my 70th birthday this year than when I was looking at 65.

I hope to be as clear as Mary when God calls me to retire.

Note: Mary Marcotte retired as the Associate General Presbyter of the Presbytery of New Covenant in Texas in the Presbyterian Church USA.  She previously served as the Director of Christian Education for three different congregations.  The Rev. Jim Atwood retired from Trinity Presbyterian Church in Arlington, VA.  He was one of the co-founders of the Million Mom March  in 2000 and former Chairperson of the Board for the National Coalition to Stop Gun Violence after his retirement from professional ministry.  Jim died of complications from COVID-19 in June 2020.

One response to “Guest Blogger: More on Retirement from a Retired Church Leader

  1. Laurey Hartwell Harrell

    It’s interesting that since announcing my retirement on June 1st, no matter what I say people think it’s because something bad happened at the church! And it didn’t! I remarried almost two years ago now with 10 grandchildren and two more on the way. I want to be present for my family and explore life to the fullest that God has given me. What gifts! You can’t buy more time. We can only be stewards of what’s given. Thanks be to God!

    Liked by 1 person

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