We’ve all seen it, haven’t we? The pastor who may have done great ministry in the past who stays on long after their effectiveness has waned. But the congregation loves them too much to deal with it, so the church stops being led properly, then starts to decline.
A church can stay in a state of decline like this for years, even a decade or more. This is not only hard on the church while it’s happening, it makes the situation extremely difficult when a new pastor eventually does arrive.
Sometimes they’re staying too long in a church they should have left. Sometimes they’re staying too long in pastoral ministry after they should have retired. That’s why the podcasts this month aren’t just about longevity, but about how to leave well, too.
So why do some pastors stay too long? Here are a few reasons:
1. Their Identity Is Wrapped up in Being a Pastor
Retirement can be hard on pastors because pastoring isn’t just a job, it’s a calling. And sometimes that calling can be confused with our identity.
Many pastors don’t just wonder what they would do if they left the pastorate, they wonder who they would be.
2. They Can’t Bear to Say Goodbye
True shepherding pastors aren’t just putting in the hours, they’re making relationships – deep, lasting relationships. But then, in most cases, when they stop pastoring the church they’re required to stop attending the church. They don’t just lose their job, they have to say goodbye to their relationships, their spiritual home and more.
3. Lack of Financial Options
Retirement is almost impossible for most pastors because most of us haven’t put sufficient money away to retire on. And even in younger years it’s hard to leave one church until you have another pastorate lined up right away — especially if you have a family to care for.
4. A False Theology of Non-Retirement
This isn’t frequent, but it’s not rare, either. Some pastors link the command to be a minister (which is for every Christian) to their role as pastor (which is only for some, and sometimes for a season). This can cause them to feel disobedient to God if they’re not holding the title of pastor.
5. They Have Nothing Else to Do
When I transitioned from the very active role of lead pastor to the less active role of teaching pastor, I still had a lot to keep me busy, as evidenced by the article you’re reading and so much more.