The Church has always been in transition but it feels like a whirlwind right now. From Rick Warren to the rural Pastor out in the county, Pastors are retiring in record numbers. COVID-19 moved some to retire earlier than they’d planned and the general toxicity in our culture has made retirement appealing for others. Read this for examples.
There are or will be 20 openings in one of the Presbyteries near me in 2021 due to retirements.
Is this the moment that younger generations have been waiting for in terms of long-term Boomer Pastors finally moving on so that they can step in? Not necessarily.
- After long pastorates, some congregations have decreased in energy and capacity to the point that the retiring Pastor will be their last full time leader. They can only afford a part-time spiritual leader and it’s almost impossible to grow a church with a part-time Pastor.
- Church staffs with one or more Associate Pastors are replacing those APs with Directors of Youth, Directors of Worship, Directors of Adult Discipleship.
- Rural Pastors are retiring from churches in towns that were once more vibrant when they started there decades ago. But these days there are no jobs, no schools, no reason for locals to remain in town. And so rural churches are struggling to afford Pastors.
- Some younger pastors – nowhere near retirement age – are choosing to leave professional ministry because it’s too discouraging. They set out to seminary with deep faith and great hope, and yet they’ve found that Church – for too many – is not about Jesus. Read this.
Yes there are healthy congregations out there with the ability and will to call fresh, faithful leadership and some call them Healthy Dinosaurs. For now, things are okay. But extinction is quite possible in a decade or so.
So, why do I have hope for the future?
There will always be people who crave what Jesus offers. An agnostic 30-something might throw up a little bit in their mouth if that’s how we couch it when we first meet. Read the Gospels and we see that Jesus offers relief among other things.
It’s about loving and serving broken people. There are broken people in every neighborhood and people are looking for authentic purpose and authentic relationships. Church: This. Cannot. Be. Faked.
We have got to let go of all the trappings of religion and take a deep breath and figure out who God is calling us to be and who God is not calling us to be.
I am a broken record about this. But it’s true. If our congregations are making a difference in the lives of members and neighbors, faith will deepen and Christian community will grow. It’s as simple and as difficult as that.
Image is a stock photo that looks like a cartoon to me.