I have several pastor friends who are looking down the barrel of retirement. Some are fearlessly excited about their next chapter of life and ministry. Some are flat out frightened by the whole idea of leaving the pastorate. All of us want to finish strong one day like the Apostle Paul.
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. (2 Timothy 4:7 CSB)
To finish strong later we need to avoid some common mistakes now. Here are four of the most common I have noticed.
Don’t have the next chapter of ministry
Let’s face it, our ministries are intrinsically connected to our identities. This is true of men in general, and pastors in particular. Unless taken to an unhealthy extreme, I have no problem with this. God hardwired us to work, which is why the idea of unemployment is scary for many pastors, who are mostly men.
When you leave full-time ministry, that does not mean that you are leaving the ministry altogether. Start dreaming of the next chapter of your life and ministry on different terms. I have seen many pastors rock their retirements by leaning into the gifts they enjoy and excel at the most.
Whether it is a writing project, an interim pastorate, or being a mission mobilizer —as long as you have a pulse, God has a plan for your life and ministry.
Don’t have a financial plan
Most of us cannot finish financially strong without outside help. Pastors are not proficient in everything, nor should they be. This is a common blind spot for pastors, so why not recruit a financial planner to help you map out your retirement plan? Art Rainer has a helpful article about how to choose a financial advisor.
Don’t recruit a transition team
Ministry transitions don’t have to be awkward, painful, or embarrassing, but this is, unfortunately, the norm in Baptist churches. Transition batons get dropped when pastors do one of these two things.
1. Hold on too long
Privacy is overrated when it comes to making a ministry exit. Speculation leads to rumors and paranoia, which sets the church and ministry successor up for failure.
2. Let go too quickly
Lay leaders often do not know what to do, so they naturally default to their secular work experience. If our leaders are not ready for the job we gave them, it is probably because we have not equipped them properly. Auxano consultant Will Heath does a great job drilling down on five biblical components of a successful succession.
Decelerate at the finish line
I grew up with the family of football legend Earl Campbell. I respect how Earl gave it all on the field—in high school, college, and the NFL. Earl knew it was finally time to retire when he had to crawl to the showers after his last NFL game.
I don’t want you to limp across the finish line, but I do hope that you will leave it all on the field. It is painful to watch a pastor coast into retirement.
What mistakes do you see that we can avoid? What does a strong finish look like to you? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section of this post.