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Advice to a Pastor About to Retire

Discussion in 'Pastoral Ministries' started by Dr. Bob, Jan 11, 2021.

  1. Dr. Bob

    Dr. Bob Administrator
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    [Most know that after 50+ years of full-time ministry, I am retiring in April. In the 1990's I taught Pastoral Theology at Pillsbury Baptist College to young men. Now I am living it!]

    The Pastor is to be a “good steward” of the responsibility God entrusted to him. What is his thought process regarding whether to retire and the timing of such a change, how this will impact his family, and where and how to go on for the remaining days of life? At the same time, he must also balance and fulfil his responsibilities as a pastor to his current congregation. As a shepherd, he must be most conscious that his flock are about to undergo quite a blow. Duty and wisdom thus combine to bring him to prepare them as well as possible for what they do not yet realize is coming down the pike.

    In a very real sense, every pastor should be doing this all the time. Why? Because every pastor is ultimately an interim pastor. But in another sense, there is something actually different about leading a church that you are planning on staying in for many years and leading a church you now are planning to leave. You cannot pastor them the same if you are going to do so with integrity and effectiveness. The approach in the months prior to his leaving when all of this ferment is still contained within only his own mind and heart is key. How do you help to prepare them for a future that is not even on their radar?

    Here are suggestions for the Pastor when faced with the trauma of retiring:

    (1) Pastor, it is vital to keep uppermost in your mind that these people are not going anywhere. This is their church. They’ll be here after you leave. The decisions you make now for your church will probably not impact you, but those decisions will impact them. You have no right to do what will be easier and better for you if it will be harder and worse for them after you leave. Your future may be elsewhere but theirs is not.

    (2) Pastor, study how Jesus prepared the Apostles for His exit. He knew He was leaving; they did not. Thoughtfully, diligently, and carefully He prepared them for His absence long before they ever saw it coming. When you trace the arc of His ministry you can see this building in His actions and teaching over the last year of His life, coming to a point during the Passion Week. He spoke often of His leaving, sought to unite them, spoke much of peace, encouraged them to love each other, and many more such things. If you really want to pastor like the Shepherd and Bishop of our Souls pastors, then study Him in this.

    (3) Pastor, remember prayer is a key as it undergirds all spiritual decisions with spiritual strength. It supports and develops in God’s church that which we are attempting to do. Pray for these people to whom you have given your life. Pray for their future. Ask God to do what He is so good at doing, prepare them for what they do not realize is coming. Ask Him to strengthen your people, to peel them away from you and draw them to Himself.

    (4) Pastor, put off any other major changes. If you were going to remodel your building, don’t. If you have already begun then finish it before you leave. If you were going to start a new program or change the format of worship, don’t. Change is inevitable, but too much change too soon may undermine the limited faith and energy of the congregation.

    (5) Pastor, count the cost. Squirrel away money so that you will not be a burden on the people after you have stepped away from the position. But pastoral transitions are not only rough on pastors and their families; they’re also rough on churches. Most times churches lose members and their giving declines. It may take a year or more to ‘stabilize’ and coalesce under new leadership, but you cannot see the future. Allow the next Pastor to step in with the flexibility to focus on pastoring his new flock instead of immediately entering financial-crisis mode.

    (6) Pastor, remind the people about being “mature Christians”, those who find a pastor edifying but not specifically necessary. Such Christians have such a direct attachment to the Lord that their pastor, while helpful, is not critical to their spirituality.

    (7) Pastor, guide the church in a pastoral succession plan. Lay the ground-work for retirement a year or more in advance so all can be in prayer and seeking the leader God will use in the years after you leave. Have a list of men who are competent in the Word of God to fill the pulpit with power. Talk with possible candidates within the congregation or area that may be willing to respond to the call of God for such a ministry. Work with Elders who are gifted in pastoral roles. The people should not have to ‘start from scratch” in those stressful final months and weeks.

    Pastor, you are a steward. These dear people are not yours, but His. Good stewards prepare carefully for the future, even if that future does not involve the steward himself, because that future always involves them and involves Him. .

    Be a good steward.
     
  2. Dr. Bob

    Dr. Bob Administrator
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    The "trauma" of retirement is not an accidental wording. It is reality. I shall post more in months to come as I work through all of these issues.
     
  3. Tom Bryant

    Tom Bryant Well-Known Member

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    This is a great thread. I retired almost 3 years ago and those suggestions are all part of what I did.
    I preached for 2 months about the Biblical basis of the local church before I announced my retirement. My final sermon there was from Joshua 1 where God tells Joshua "Moses, my servant, is dead. Now Therefore..."
    You might want to also talk about how you knew it was time to retire. I look forward to reading this.
     
  4. Dr. Bob

    Dr. Bob Administrator
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    Here is a humorous look at knowing WHEN to retire or to move on to another church. It will be printed 01/15/21 in my blog

    ~~
    [As a veteran pastor/college professor of 50+ years I am often asked by young men how to know when a ministry is "over" and you should seek a move to another church. Here are some warning signs.]

    "You know it's over when . . .

    . . you return from vacation to find the visiting preacher's name on your mailbox.

    . . your church is about to split, and neither group wants you.

    . . shut-ins pull the window shades and pretend they aren't home when you come for a visit.

    . . the trustees wall-paper your office with road maps.

    . . your 2020 Christmas gift is a subscription to U-Haul Magazine.

    . . you're told God is calling you to the mission field -- now.

    . . you're cast as the donkey in the Christmas pageant.

    . . your wife moves her membership letter to another church.

    . . your secretary starts sending out your resume.

    . . the congregation forces the pulpit committee to wear sackcloth and make a public apology.

    . . church members start referring to you as their 'former' pastor.

    . . your 'love offering' is a two-for-one coupon at Golden Corral.

    . . you tried to get in the church this morning and discovered the locks have been changed.
     
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