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10 insights for retiring pastors

Unsplash/diana spatariu
Unsplash/diana spatariu

With the aging of the Boomer generation, pastors are retiring every day. I hear from a pastor almost every week who has recently retired or is considering retirement. Over the past few years, our conversations have become somewhat predictable and consistent. 

The questions these pastors have typically revolve around three issues: How do I prepare my church for my retirement?; what are some major financial issues regarding retirement?; and what do I do after I retire? 

Here are 10 insights that touch on those three questions. 

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1. When you retire from your church, stay away for a season. The season may be permanent if you move out of town or begin a series of interim pastorates. At the very least, let your successor get established without your presence for several months to a year.

2. Most pastors who retire do not want to leave vocational ministry. They might be ready to take a break from the weekly demands and expectations of local church pastoring, but they still want to serve in vocational ministry. Interim pastorates are the most common retirement ministries. Many churches want someone who can help them with church revitalization (see Church Answers’ Church Revitalization Certification).

3. If you are eligible for Social Security, get sound advice on when you should begin taking the payments. The standard eligible age ranges from 62 to 70, but each year can make a big difference with different implications. 

4. If you are eligible for Medicare, you need even more sound advice. I have a finance degree and have been in the business world for several years, but I still needed help. Sometimes I think the government made it as complex as it could be. I ended up paying a Medicare coach to guide me through the maze. The modest cost was worth every cent. When you near your retirement age, you will get reams of mail letting you know that their plan is the best Medicare supplement plan. Get an independent person to guide you.

5. You will need to prepare for a different life. The life can be flexible, joyous, and exciting. But it is different. Everyone responds differently to the life of retirement, but almost everyone is surprised at how different this new phase of life is.

6. The moment you announce to your church that you plan to retire, your relationship with the congregation has changed. You are no longer the pastor; you are the departing pastor. Such is the reason I advise pastors to be careful about making announcements too soon.

7. Don’t be surprised if the church really does not want your input on finding your successor. And don’t take their posture as a personal rejection. It is human nature for people to move on once they know this significant change is on the horizon.

8. Plan your retirement and your exit from the church with your spouse. This decision dramatically affects the person to whom you are married. Don’t just plan “my future.” Plan “our future.”

9. Get outside financial help and planning. You need to know what your income level will be. If you have a 401(k) or a 403(b), you need to know such intricacies as RMD (required minimum distribution) and estate implications for the deferred income. And there is more, so much more. At the very least, get a one-time review of your total financial picture.

10. Rejoice in this new phase of life and ministry. God is not done with you yet. It can be a fun and exciting time of life. It should be a fun and exciting time of life.

You have served well to get to this point in your life. Move forward in the confidence of God’s power, strength, and wisdom that the best days of your life and ministry are still ahead of you.

Originally published at Church Answers. 

Sam Rainer is president of Church Answers and pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Church in Florida. 

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