Author Topic: Early Retirement  (Read 3975 times)

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Early Retirement
« Reply #30 on: October 15, 2021, 08:03:00 PM »
Too late. When I had to give up skiing, I did some work with weights two, perhaps three times a week. My guess is it wasnít enough, or other factors came into play.


I told my doctor, "Yes, I lift weights. It's a considerable weight every morning when I lift myself out of bed." (He didn't think that counted.) :)
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PrTim15

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Re: Early Retirement
« Reply #31 on: October 15, 2021, 10:01:42 PM »
I think itís fascinating that a vast majority of this conversation is concerning the pastor and his income, ministry and desires during his retirement. What about the congregations? What if they want a new guy? Just making an observation.

D. Engebretson

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Re: Early Retirement
« Reply #32 on: October 15, 2021, 10:23:35 PM »
I think itís fascinating that a vast majority of this conversation is concerning the pastor and his income, ministry and desires during his retirement. What about the congregations? What if they want a new guy? Just making an observation.

I think it's tricky for the congregation to actually suggest to the current pastor that a new man is desired.  And in the vast majority of cases will not likely do so. That said, I have begun to think that my parish could benefit from a fresh start after the previous two pastors were both here well over 20+ years. There is, of course, a balancing act.  Experience counts for a lot, and as we all know a pastor takes years to learn his parish and its people.  But at what point should a man consider leaving? Normally this internal conversation occurs when a call arrives and he must deliberate between his current call and the one he just received.  But that conversation seems different when you are nearing the 'age of retirement,' since this age varies with each pastor.  Health, of course, is probably the main factor for most. Disability may make that decision for them.  But then there is mental acuity and the ability to carry out the complexities of ministry.  But all this is covered in most constitutions regarding whether a man can be removed from office. 

I think if a parish "wants a new guy" a conversation needs to take place initially with someone other than the current office holder.  Possibly the circuit visitor.  And in that conversation the question needs to be asked "why?"  Is the only solution to existing frustrations the departure of the current man? At this point a conversation should be happening between leadership and the current pastor.
« Last Edit: October 15, 2021, 10:25:15 PM by D. Engebretson »
Pastor Don Engebretson
St. Peter Lutheran Church of Polar (Antigo) WI

Donald_Kirchner

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Re: Early Retirement
« Reply #33 on: October 15, 2021, 10:38:33 PM »
I think itís fascinating that a vast majority of this conversation is concerning the pastor and his income, ministry and desires during his retirement. What about the congregations? What if they want a new guy? Just making an observation.

You mean like the congregation forcing the pastor into early retirement?

Since the initial question was:

"I wonder if there are pastors on the forum who have opted for early retirement and whether they would share their experiences. How has it gone personally and financially?"

I think the responses have been overall appropriate.
Don Kirchner

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Dave Benke

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Re: Early Retirement
« Reply #34 on: October 16, 2021, 08:55:57 AM »
I think itís fascinating that a vast majority of this conversation is concerning the pastor and his income, ministry and desires during his retirement. What about the congregations? What if they want a new guy? Just making an observation.

You mean like the congregation forcing the pastor into early retirement?

Since the initial question was:

"I wonder if there are pastors on the forum who have opted for early retirement and whether they would share their experiences. How has it gone personally and financially?"

I think the responses have been overall appropriate.

I think Tim's question is fair.  When it comes to "initial questions" on thread topics, the online forum record is basically to veer hither and yon at will.  Have the perspectives of the folks in the pew been fully examined?  Maybe not.  Don E's comments are pertinent.  And the online forum is weighted toward clergy. 

In response to Don E., my opinion is that even if and even though the older in years pastor may not be as "fresh", it's more about trust than anything else.  If the longer term or just older pastor is trusted, it's hard not to have buyer's remorse if the newer/younger/fresher person does not gain that trust or is in process of doing so. 

Meanies in leadership can use all of those uncertainties to manipulate the situation toward ending the older pastor's time or making the newer/younger pastor's time miserable. 

Dave Benke

D. Engebretson

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Re: Early Retirement
« Reply #35 on: October 16, 2021, 09:14:34 AM »
I think itís fascinating that a vast majority of this conversation is concerning the pastor and his income, ministry and desires during his retirement. What about the congregations? What if they want a new guy? Just making an observation.

You mean like the congregation forcing the pastor into early retirement?

Since the initial question was:

"I wonder if there are pastors on the forum who have opted for early retirement and whether they would share their experiences. How has it gone personally and financially?"

I think the responses have been overall appropriate.

I think Tim's question is fair.  When it comes to "initial questions" on thread topics, the online forum record is basically to veer hither and yon at will.  Have the perspectives of the folks in the pew been fully examined?  Maybe not.  Don E's comments are pertinent.  And the online forum is weighted toward clergy. 

In response to Don E., my opinion is that even if and even though the older in years pastor may not be as "fresh", it's more about trust than anything else.  If the longer term or just older pastor is trusted, it's hard not to have buyer's remorse if the newer/younger/fresher person does not gain that trust or is in process of doing so. 

Meanies in leadership can use all of those uncertainties to manipulate the situation toward ending the older pastor's time or making the newer/younger pastor's time miserable. 

Dave Benke

I do agree that trust is critical here.  One 'earns' such trust over the years.  You gain some initial respect with your 'office' and 'title,' and people will, in general, show respect to the one new on the scene.  But that relationship will build and deepen as he lives and ministers in their midst 'in good times and in bad.'  At almost 21 years I know I have that trust.  And I treasure it and pray I will not disappoint it.
Pastor Don Engebretson
St. Peter Lutheran Church of Polar (Antigo) WI

Richard Johnson

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Re: Early Retirement
« Reply #36 on: October 16, 2021, 09:27:58 AM »
I think itís fascinating that a vast majority of this conversation is concerning the pastor and his income, ministry and desires during his retirement. What about the congregations? What if they want a new guy? Just making an observation.

Well, that was the question, wasn't it? "I wonder if there are pastors on the forum who have opted for early retirement and whether they would share their experiences. How has it gone personally and financially?"
The Rev. Richard O. Johnson, STS

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Re: Early Retirement
« Reply #37 on: October 16, 2021, 09:50:25 AM »
Iíve seen both sides of the issue when it is the congregation pushing for early retirement of the pastor. There is always the issue of the divine call vs. hire/fire mentality. And there is always the issue of competing views on the pastorís continued effectiveness. But one that sometimes frustrates me is that pastors take for granted that their personal aims and finances factor into the retirement decision but bristle at the idea that the congregationís aims and finances should have a say. The pastor may want to keep working in order to maximize social security and retirement income, but if the congregation wants him to retire so that they can replace him with someone much younger to reduce the salary line item in the budget, well, that is unconscionable and denying the divine call. It can be a bit one-sided, and sometimes otherwise great pastor/parish relationship sour toward the end over issues like that.

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Early Retirement
« Reply #38 on: October 16, 2021, 10:49:54 AM »
Iíve seen both sides of the issue when it is the congregation pushing for early retirement of the pastor. There is always the issue of the divine call vs. hire/fire mentality. And there is always the issue of competing views on the pastorís continued effectiveness. But one that sometimes frustrates me is that pastors take for granted that their personal aims and finances factor into the retirement decision but bristle at the idea that the congregationís aims and finances should have a say. The pastor may want to keep working in order to maximize social security and retirement income, but if the congregation wants him to retire so that they can replace him with someone much younger to reduce the salary line item in the budget, well, that is unconscionable and denying the divine call. It can be a bit one-sided, and sometimes otherwise great pastor/parish relationship sour toward the end over issues like that.


"Bristle?" A major factor in my decision to retire when I did was the congregation's finances and their future. I knew that I did not have the energy in my late 60s to give the congregation what they might need for their future.


In my experience, every time I left a congregation, the new pastor was able to reach some people that I was unable to reach. At the same time, some of my supporters left the congregation. There are people who join the pastor rather than the congregation, even as we pastors trie to get them connected to the whole congregation and the congregation's ministries.


There was also a member at a congregation, the son of a Lutheran pastor, who remembered his father saying that no pastor should stay more than 10 years. At my tenth year in that congregation, he, with some friends, worked to encourage me to leave. Ironically, soon after I left, he moved to another town, and the pastor at that congregation had been there 16 years - and was still going strong.
"The church Ö had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

Charles Austin

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Re: Early Retirement
« Reply #39 on: October 16, 2021, 11:08:31 AM »
Long, long experience and observation, especially in handling interims and handling. Conflicts have led me to believe that extended pastorates are a bad idea. Ten years, 15 years maybe, but when you get into the 20 and 25 year pastorates, Not even to mention the ones that may run for 30 or 35 years, there are problems.
Often that can be handled by an intentional interim, who stays for two or three years to make the needed transition. But the interim needs to be strong and forceful and key congregational leadership and synod leaders have to be supportive. I did one that failed and one that succeeded, and the failure was because key congregational leadership only pretended to be on board with the transition.
30 year pastorates might bring some glory and love to the pastor, but they seem to leave problems for the congregation.
On the other hand, I saw one long-term pastor lose his reputation because five years before retirement he locked everything down the way he wanted and resisted any kind of change, coasting to retirement and ruining his relationship with the congregation who was actually glad to see him leave.
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D. Engebretson

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Re: Early Retirement
« Reply #40 on: October 16, 2021, 11:22:23 AM »
Long, long experience and observation, especially in handling interims and handling. Conflicts have led me to believe that extended pastorates are a bad idea. Ten years, 15 years maybe, but when you get into the 20 and 25 year pastorates, Not even to mention the ones that may run for 30 or 35 years, there are problems.
Often that can be handled by an intentional interim, who stays for two or three years to make the needed transition. But the interim needs to be strong and forceful and key congregational leadership and synod leaders have to be supportive. I did one that failed and one that succeeded, and the failure was because key congregational leadership only pretended to be on board with the transition.
30 year pastorates might bring some glory and love to the pastor, but they seem to leave problems for the congregation.
On the other hand, I saw one long-term pastor lose his reputation because five years before retirement he locked everything down the way he wanted and resisted any kind of change, coasting to retirement and ruining his relationship with the congregation who was actually glad to see him leave.

There may be problems, but I think it is an overstatement to say there will be problems.  Perhaps I am responding, in part, because I am one of those 20+ guys, but I've known many who had long and fruitful ministries.  Pr. Benke, of this forum, would certainly be a good example, but he is not alone.  Much depends, of course, on the man and how he grows with his ministry.  The one you mention is certainly an example of what not to do.  But I'd like to believe that he is the exception, not the rule.
Pastor Don Engebretson
St. Peter Lutheran Church of Polar (Antigo) WI

Dave Benke

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Re: Early Retirement
« Reply #41 on: October 16, 2021, 12:27:19 PM »
Iíve seen both sides of the issue when it is the congregation pushing for early retirement of the pastor. There is always the issue of the divine call vs. hire/fire mentality. And there is always the issue of competing views on the pastorís continued effectiveness. But one that sometimes frustrates me is that pastors take for granted that their personal aims and finances factor into the retirement decision but bristle at the idea that the congregationís aims and finances should have a say. The pastor may want to keep working in order to maximize social security and retirement income, but if the congregation wants him to retire so that they can replace him with someone much younger to reduce the salary line item in the budget, well, that is unconscionable and denying the divine call. It can be a bit one-sided, and sometimes otherwise great pastor/parish relationship sour toward the end over issues like that.


"Bristle?" A major factor in my decision to retire when I did was the congregation's finances and their future. I knew that I did not have the energy in my late 60s to give the congregation what they might need for their future.


In my experience, every time I left a congregation, the new pastor was able to reach some people that I was unable to reach. At the same time, some of my supporters left the congregation. There are people who join the pastor rather than the congregation, even as we pastors trie to get them connected to the whole congregation and the congregation's ministries.


There was also a member at a congregation, the son of a Lutheran pastor, who remembered his father saying that no pastor should stay more than 10 years. At my tenth year in that congregation, he, with some friends, worked to encourage me to leave. Ironically, soon after I left, he moved to another town, and the pastor at that congregation had been there 16 years - and was still going strong.

Boom!  This  happens all the time, and as an ecclesiastical supervisor it gave me agita.  The pastor is making X, and gathering his pension.  The church is having some financial issues, or he thinks they are, or they like him and he wants to be nice.  So he voluntarily stays on taking almost no compensation and using his social and pension in most cases opting to take those benefits early, before they're completely "ripened."  And the deal is - continue to work exactly as you were working, and for $10000 per year. 

I would always go, dude, you need a union representative.  But of course Lutherans tend to be the most anti-union crew out there.  At least negotiate more vacay, or some other thing.  But no, the pastor loves his flock and works for less than a peanut.

This is in the situations where the pastor is loved and loves back.  In some others, the congregation may be desperate for the pastor to go, and even incentivize him with some bonus money, and yet he makes the deal with them to work on for almost nothing on those same terms.

Dave Benke

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Re: Early Retirement
« Reply #42 on: October 16, 2021, 12:45:44 PM »
When I was sixty-five, I told my congregation I would retire when I was sixty-seven.  And I did.  I miss preaching.  On the other hand, I love sitting next to my wife during the Divine Service, hearing a good sermon, and receiving the Sacrament with everybody else.  I have a good pastor, for which I am grateful.   

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Re: Early Retirement
« Reply #43 on: October 16, 2021, 02:20:33 PM »
When I was sixty-five, I told my congregation I would retire when I was sixty-seven.  And I did.  I miss preaching.  On the other hand, I love sitting next to my wife during the Divine Service, hearing a good sermon, and receiving the Sacrament with everybody else.  I have a good pastor, for which I am grateful.   

Yup, after service the first Sunday in June, I told some friends that I did something I'd never been able to do before. I held my wife's hand during the whole sermon. 😊
Don Kirchner

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Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Early Retirement
« Reply #44 on: October 16, 2021, 02:22:23 PM »
Long, long experience and observation, especially in handling interims and handling. Conflicts have led me to believe that extended pastorates are a bad idea. Ten years, 15 years maybe, but when you get into the 20 and 25 year pastorates, Not even to mention the ones that may run for 30 or 35 years, there are problems.
Often that can be handled by an intentional interim, who stays for two or three years to make the needed transition. But the interim needs to be strong and forceful and key congregational leadership and synod leaders have to be supportive. I did one that failed and one that succeeded, and the failure was because key congregational leadership only pretended to be on board with the transition.
30 year pastorates might bring some glory and love to the pastor, but they seem to leave problems for the congregation.
On the other hand, I saw one long-term pastor lose his reputation because five years before retirement he locked everything down the way he wanted and resisted any kind of change, coasting to retirement and ruining his relationship with the congregation who was actually glad to see him leave.


Conversely, one thing that Rick Warren discovered before even starting his congregation, that all of the large congregations he studied had long-term pastorates. Changing pastors every 10 years will not result in long-term growth. Along the same lines, I remember reading an article or book by Robert Schuller who talked about making 40 year goals for the congregation. The expectation is that the pastor will still be there after 40 years.


Granted, the down-side of this is that when the long-term pastor leaves, all the people who joined (because of the pastor) may also leave. Robert Schuller's ministry virtually disappeared after he left. His Chrystal Cathedral was bought the the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange. It's now called "Christ Cathedral." What was once one of the largest ELCA congregations, Community Church of Joy, no longer exists as a Lutheran congregation. They were bought by an even larger Assembly of God congregation.


I think that a question congregations need to consider: "What can we do to keep this pastor and the ministry vital over the next 40-50 years?" I don't think that congregations often think about long-term goals and ministries. They often live from month-to-month; and look at the whole year only at budget time. What about planning five-year and ten-year budgets (that could be going up or down depending on what the circumstances are)?
"The church Ö had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]