A Checklist for Pastors Nearing Retirement

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Do you find yourself thinking more often about retirement? Are you like a pastor friend of mine who, five years before retiring, started counting down the remaining number of monthly board meetings?

How did it happen so quickly? If you are like me, you remember preaching your first sermon and taking your first assignment. You were the young kid on the block and the old preacher boys wondered if you were going to make it.

You made it. But now here you are, thinking more and more about retirement.

I went through this process a few months shy of turning 60. With no place to go and no plan B, I resigned. I was washed up. My energy was gone and I couldn’t face another problem. But, with the help of God, I am now living the dream as a writer, consultant, and a professional interim pastor. I write and coach about my ReFIRE process which helped me through my own transition.

If you are thinking of retirement here’s a checklist of 7 important items to help you prepare for the transition.

  • Determine to leave well.
    A wise pastor friend once told me, “Years from now people will not remember what you said, but they will remember how you left.” This is not the time to unleash your years of pent-up frustration. Leave with as much grace as you preached about during your tenure. Give no one any ammunition to destroy your legacy.
  • Set the table for your successor.
    Leave all records up to date. Prepare people for the changes to come. Preach about supporting the new guy. Make sure YOU leave so the new pastor can bond with the people. and if anyone form your congregation come to your for advice or help refer them to their new pastor.
  • Tie up loose ends.
    Have you made commitments that need honored? Were promises made which you need to keep? Is there someone with whom you need to reconcile? Before you resign, work hard to tie up all loose ends.
  • Downsize everything.
    It’s time to let stuff go. If finances are a concern, have a garage sale and even sell the house. Prepare for your lifestyle to be downsized. You may not be able to travel as much as when in ministry. There will be no church to pay your way to conferences. There is no expense account from which to be reimbursed. And, perhaps most important of all, downsize your expectations if you have the idea it’s time to lay on the beach and sip ice tea.
  • Money.
    The single best action you can take as you near retirement is to pay off your debt. If that is impossible work hard to pay it down. Start by paying off as many credit cards as possible. I suggest you read books by Dave Ramsey. I used his materials and I’m debt free except for our small mortgage.
  • Plan for your encore career.
    Even if you have enough money to retire this is your time to focus on work that lights you up. Work on discovering where your passion and competency intersect. I recommend the new book by Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy called “Living Forward.” Read my brief review HERE. DON’T sit by the phone and expect it to ring. Start planning now on what you will do next.
  • Prepare for the dramatic shift from “everyone needs me” to “no one needs me.”
    This was an unexpected reality for me. After my resignation I reveled in being left alone. But that didn’t last very long. Soon I realized no one needed me. The phone stopped ringing. No one looked to me to solve their problems. It while take a while to adjust to the new reality.

As you transition out of the role of pastoral staff, let me encourage you to remain true to your God-given call. Finish well. Find other ways to minister to people.

As my free gift to you here’s a free infographic which outlines my ReFIRE life process. It will get you pointed in the right direction.

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