Are You Retiring Soon? Pro Tip: Leave Some Things Dangling

With every good intention, some of my retired colleagues waited to retire until the church roof was paid off or The Family Life Center was completed. But yesterday, a not-retired colleague lauded the decision of a newly retired pastor who left “while leaving some things dangling.” This afforded a transition team to take ownership of a project. This gave the next leaders a piece of the story.

I’m not telling you to leave things a mess. Don’t wait to retire until there’s no money left to call another pastor. Don’t leave after kicking back for so long that there is no mission infrastructure. Plant seeds. Set up those who will come after you.

(Note: I continue to be profoundly grateful to BM for leaving me with a healthy ministry.)

We like to imagine tying everything into a neat bow before moving to our next thing. I know couples who are looking for the perfect moment to get married, have a baby, start a business. I have friends imagining the perfect time to retire.

Not sure there is always a perfect time for life transitions. Sometimes, maybe, but not always.

It’s not in our nature to leave some things unfinished and we recall – at the end of Lent – that among Jesus’ last words were “It is finished.” Sure there would have been more people to heal, more wisdom to convey, more lessons to learn. But he stopped. And he left some things dangling.

That’s where we come in.

Friends: don’t wait until “everything is done” to retire. The energy you think you are saving the church by “tying up loose ends” might actually be keeping them from growing and moving forward.

At this point in my life, it’s a regular question I ask of trusted colleagues: Is it time for me to retire? (Soon but not quite yet, I’m told.) I look forward to that day when I retire with all kinds of exciting possibilities dangling out there for the Church I love to choose.

3 responses to “Are You Retiring Soon? Pro Tip: Leave Some Things Dangling

  1. As an Intentional Interim Minister, I always dream that I will tie things up in a neat bow and hand off to their next called minister. And yet your words make sense, let the next minister be part of the story of moving forward. I will no longer feel bad about not ‘finishing’ everything!


  2. Barb Tesorero

    As one who has chosen to engage in interim ministry for the past 20 years, I totally agree. I always go in looking for things the Session can grab onto and have success with from the very beginning. Things that will help build confidence about their leadership

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I agree. Don’t wait to prepare, so you will be ready to launch into the next expression of your baptismal calling.


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