Where do pastors go to after they retire?

Which church do pastors go to after they retire? There are pastors who are one-church pastors. There are others who have served several churches during the period of their pastoral service. What are some of the factors that determine where the pastor will go to after retirement?

A pastor may have a painful exit and continuing in the church that caused the hurt is difficult. He or she leaves for another church because he or she feels that there is no welcome or acceptance there. Seeing old enemies who hurt them may re-open old wounds and that can be all too painful.

A pastor may need a sabbatical from ministry: a lengthy period of rest, renewal and retooling. Staying in a church he or she served in, will make it difficult for him or her to rest from ministry. He or she will hear of needs, problems and end up helping, visiting, mentoring.

A pastor may leave the church he had served to facilitate the establishment of the new lead pastor’s leadership in the church. If he or she stayed on, people may still look to him or her as the shepherd and leader. Of course there are exceptions, where the new pastor is secure and the retiring pastor knows how to keep from interfering.

A pastor may leave the church to take on a new assignment in another church that invited him or her over to help out in ministry, or even take on a paid role. He or she may also go to another country on a missions assignment.

A pastor may leave the church because if he had stayed on he would be able to do a lot of ministry, but all for free, something he had always done for Christ but with financial compensation. Rightly or wrongly, the pastor may feel sorely taken advantage of, “I am doing the same work, but not paid at all.” This is a real test of maturity and doing ministry for love of God, not for payment.

A pastor may leave to have a new experience of church. A Pentecostal pastor may end up in a liturgical church, and vice versa. A small church pastor may prefer a large church experience, and vice versa. A pastor may just want to avoid the “institutionalism” of church, and be in fellowship with a family kind of house church.

A pastor may leave simply for pragmatic reasons: be where their grown-up  children are so as to be able to help them care for the grandchildren; or attend the church closest to their home.

A pastor may very well stay in the church he has served, and loved, because he sees it as family despite all its flaws, and despite all the sorrow he has experienced while leading it.

To read about why pastors resign click HERE.

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  • I have been contemplating on this in the recent months as I observe several pastors in this stage of life and ministry. One was asked to leave due to hitting the retirement age and health reasons (but also as there were increasing tensions with leaders and staff). He moved on to pastor a smaller church. Another stepped off after hitting retirement age into parachurch ministry (reluctant to take the helm in the absence of a senior pastor). Yet another was struck down by a stroke and is now in a nursing home, and the church recently stopped supporting him after he hit retirement age.

    In all 3 cases, it struck me how fragile life can be, and how much is dependent on relationship with the church and leaders. Almost in every case, there was reluctance or surprise in leaving, and I am left wondering, can or could the church do more to support pastors when they leave? Not just in terms of finances, but moral, emotional, spiritual support. Does it have to be so cut-and-dry, like a business transaction, or following industrial or secular/corporate practices? Perhaps it is worth to consider what other countries practice e.g. in the West, where seminary professors might eventually get tenure or pensions? I am not sure whether it is similar for retired pastors (especially those long-serving).

  • Hi Timothy, thanks for your interesting observations and comment. It may seem like churches treat their long-serving pastors like used tissue paper. After use, cast aside on the hawker center table, plate or floor. Almost callous, “so cut-and-dry, like a business transaction”. It is like these pastors were useful until they reached 62,65 or 67, and suddenly they are no longer anointed nor useful nor needed in the church. I think the church has lost its “family” feel and has become more “institutional” and something vital is missing. The church should not follow the corporate’s or government’s lead but carve out its own unique path following what the Word teaches about retirement. The 60s and 70’s may be the most fruitful years of the servant of God! Some kind of co-discernment is called for that will seek God’s will about proper transitioning and this need to be throughout the years, not when the pastors hit a commonly accepted age. People in church do care about retiring pastors but are bound and limited by the thinking of the “corporate” or “institutional” few.

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