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The Age Factor

Started by D. Engebretson, April 20, 2023, 10:33:06 AM

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D. Engebretson

Recently the news has featured a story about Sen. Dianne Feinstein's protracted absence in the Senate due to health issues.  She is also 89 years of age. The New York Times, which reported on her continued absence on the judiciary committee, also noted that "she has also been suffering from a deterioration in her short-term memory and her ability to hold conversations for more than a year."  Our current president is 80 years of age, and definitely shows signs of age.  Rep. Nanci Peolsi is 83.  I could add more.

However, this thread it not intended to examine the 'age factor' for politicians. This is a discussion board primarily for religious issues, and I don't want to distract into that realm again.  It is merely a segue to a discussion about how age should be factored in for church leaders, both local and national.  I passed 62 in December and have begun to entertain the 'retirement question' as I look to the next few years.  I have been in my current parish now for over 22 years.  It seems that a transition after over two decades might be helpful, especially as I approach the quarter century mark.   

But I am not opposed to seeing church workers continue into their late 60s, 70s or beyond, as health allows. I certainly intend to do so. For one thing, the church needs it. My predecessor at my parish is now in his late 80s, and while he attends and participates in the life of the church on a regular basis, his ability to do his former work as preacher/liturgist is diminished due to health concerns.

Back in early March the LCMS reported on the death of former District President Barrie E. Henke.  He was 78 at the time of his death and had retired from is position only the year prior.  I have no idea of the ages of the current DPs, but suspect that there are a few who are, as they say, 'up there' in age. 

To what degree should age be a factor in the continued active service of a church leader?  This is certainly a sensitive topic and as I am qualifying for 'senior citizen discounts' I am not wanting to imply that age should necessarily be weighted too much.  But it's been in the news for other areas, so I thought it might be relevant here as well.

Pastor Don Engebretson
St. Peter Lutheran Church of Polar (Antigo) WI

Jim Butler

Quote from: D. Engebretson on April 20, 2023, 10:33:06 AM
Recently the news has featured a story about Sen. Dianne Feinstein's protracted absence in the Senate due to health issues.  She is also 89 years of age. The New York Times, which reported on her continued absence on the judiciary committee, also noted that "she has also been suffering from a deterioration in her short-term memory and her ability to hold conversations for more than a year."  Our current president is 80 years of age, and definitely shows signs of age.  Rep. Nanci Peolsi is 83.  I could add more.

However, this thread it not intended to examine the 'age factor' for politicians. This is a discussion board primarily for religious issues, and I don't want to distract into that realm again.  It is merely a segue to a discussion about how age should be factored in for church leaders, both local and national.  I passed 62 in December and have begun to entertain the 'retirement question' as I look to the next few years.  I have been in my current parish now for over 22 years.  It seems that a transition after over two decades might be helpful, especially as I approach the quarter century mark.   

But I am not opposed to seeing church workers continue into their late 60s, 70s or beyond, as health allows. I certainly intend to do so. For one thing, the church needs it. My predecessor at my parish is now in his late 80s, and while he attends and participates in the life of the church on a regular basis, his ability to do his former work as preacher/liturgist is diminished due to health concerns.

Back in early March the LCMS reported on the death of former District President Barrie E. Henke.  He was 78 at the time of his death and had retired from is position only the year prior.  I have no idea of the ages of the current DPs, but suspect that there are a few who are, as they say, 'up there' in age. 

To what degree should age be a factor in the continued active service of a church leader?  This is certainly a sensitive topic and as I am qualifying for 'senior citizen discounts' I am not wanting to imply that age should necessarily be weighted too much.  But it's been in the news for other areas, so I thought it might be relevant here as well.

Having turned 62 in December myself, this is a relevant question for me as well.

I don't know if there can be a hard and fast rule; it really depends on the person. I do plan to retire from my current call in about five years; what that retirement will look like is another question. I've thought about serving a small parish that can supplement my retirement income. I've thought about serving for a few years as chaplain to the LCMS missionaries in central and eastern Europe.

But who knows what tomorrow will bring for my wife and I? Our lives--and our times--are in the Lord's hands.
"Pastor Butler... [is] deaf to the cries of people like me, dismissing our concerns as Satanic scenarios, denouncing our faith and our very existence."--Charles Austin

Terry W Culler

I retired at 73.  Had I felt able to do the work of a pastor longer, I would have done so.  i came to the conclusion that I was no longer doing that which needed doing because I was no longer able to do it.  Since then I've done supply preaching only (although one set of that was 3 times a month over 9 months).  I've given thought to doing some interim work, but I'm not sure I'm up to that, even though I know folks older than me who are doing it.  Each of us must look deep into ourselves and know what is the right time for us to hang it up or we might have to suffer having the elders do an intervention.  :-[
"No particular Church has ... a right to existence, except as it believes itself the most perfect from of Christianity, the form which of right, should and will be universal."
Charles Porterfield Krauth

J. Thomas Shelley

I was Ordained to the Holy Diaconate at the age of 62 at the hand of His Eminence Metropolitan SAVAS who is five years my senior.

My predecessor Deacon in this parish was Ordained at the age of 67 and served eight years before being stricken with pancreatic cancer.
Greek Orthodox Deacon - Ecumenical Patriarchate
Ordained to the Holy Diaconate Mary of Egypt Sunday A.D. 2022

Baptized, Confirmed, and Ordained United Methodist.
Served as a Lutheran Pastor October 31, 1989 - October 31, 2014.
Charter member of the first chapter of the Society of the Holy Trinity.

Dave Likeness

The HEALTH factor is perhaps the most crucial issue as one
hits age 65.  Pastors need to be honest with themselves and
examine their personal health issues. The parish needs to
have a pastor who is physically and mentally healthy.

There is no shame if a pastor retires at age 65 due to health
concerns. Some pastors are in excellent health at age 65 and
may desire to continue in the pastoral ministry.  May the Lord
bless their efforts to serve Him with vigorous energy.


Dan Fienen

I turned 70 last year have been in my current call for 8 years. I "retired" at age 62 and about a year later took this call. My current parish is a very small rural but not farming community. I'm part time. The congregation had been served as a vacancy by another retired pastor for a couple of years before I arrived. They could not support a full time pastor. I'm not sure how this congregation would be served without a semi-retired pastor.


I would not be able to adequately care for a larger congregation with a school such as I served in my last parish. I'm too old and have slowed down too much for such a challenge. But my health is still reasonably good and mental facilities still adequate. I am helping keeping a congregation viable, the only Lutheran congregation in my county. I am serving the people of my congregation. It is, I feel, a worthwhile ministry. I don't know how long I can continue but feel no pressing need to further retire anytime soon.
Pr. Daniel Fienen
LCMS

D. Engebretson

Another thought to add to the discussion, especially as it impacts leadership in the church at circuit, district or national levels.....

To what degree should we value age as it contributes to experience?  Without the decades of experience held by our called workers, we would be greatly impoverished as a church. 
Pastor Don Engebretson
St. Peter Lutheran Church of Polar (Antigo) WI

J. Thomas Shelley

#7
Quote from: D. Engebretson on April 20, 2023, 11:20:18 AM
To what degree should we value age as it contributes to experience?  Without the decades of experience held by our called workers, we would be greatly impoverished as a church.

I am in the unique situation of having just completed my "rookie year" in the Orthodox Diaconate; yet there are times when I seem to be regarded as an "elder statesman" by my new colleagues in view of past service, particularly my having served the same parish for a quarter-century.
Greek Orthodox Deacon - Ecumenical Patriarchate
Ordained to the Holy Diaconate Mary of Egypt Sunday A.D. 2022

Baptized, Confirmed, and Ordained United Methodist.
Served as a Lutheran Pastor October 31, 1989 - October 31, 2014.
Charter member of the first chapter of the Society of the Holy Trinity.

Charles Austin

I saw too many pastors who stayed on too long, getting by, but not at their prime. Way too many. My advice? Retire and get out of the way as soon as you can.
So I retired at 66, but failed at it, taking interims, going back to a newspaper job. I did not need the money; our pensions and social security were adequate; I just wanted to feel useful. At 72, I said it was enough. I did not feel I had the energy and oomph needed to be at my best in the parish. At 76, I was finding it difficult to deal with a big old house and Beloved Spouse was losing her eyesight. I could also see other "medical adventures" ahead, so we sought a retirement home with "continuing care", a dining facility, transport to doctors, lots of activities and near our daughter and her family. But I still miss being "useful." And Beloved Spouse, now legally blind, misses her long-time friends and New Jersey activities (which would be difficult for her even if we were in New Jersey).
ELCA PASTOR. Iowa born and raised. And look at this. Here's the old 1960s protestor and critic of our government as virtually the only "love this country" patriot in this forum.

Richard Johnson

I had always anticipated retiring at 65, but at 63 Fuller Seminary was asking me to increase my teaching for them (which previously had usually been only a class or two per year). I knew both that I could not continue to serve adequately in a full-time call and that the opportunity to teach might not be there in another couple of years, so I retired at 63 1/2 and immediately began teaching almost full time (one or two, occasionally three, courses every single quarter). That was enough income that I could postpone drawing Social Security until I was 70 (at which time, coincidentally, or rather, in the Lord's good timing, the teaching opportunities dried up).

I had no real interest in doing interims, and very little in supply preaching. But as we became involved in the local Episcopal Church, after a couple of years I got licensed by the diocese to serve in its congregations. I never did anything beyond our own congregation, but it enabled me to fill in a couple of stints when the rector was on sabbatical, and often when he was on vacation or otherwise tied up--for Sunday services, midweek Eucharists, or Bible studies. I've often described those several years as my favorites in my ministry: I got to do the things I loved, when I wanted to do them (though I don't think I ever declined a request), and I didn't have to go to any meetings ever.

After we moved to NY, I've only supplied a couple of times, and only in my daughter's church. I haven't put myself on the supply list for the synod (or for the Episcopal diocese, though I hear they're kind of desperate). I probably "should" make myself available, but I don't really like the drop-in role (hard to preach to a congregation you don't know and will never see again), and I don't need the money. So I spend my time editing Forum Letter, helping to edit the Journal of the Lutheran Historical Conference, doing some other writing, and enjoying other pursuits too long on the back burner.

The only trouble with retirement is that you never get a day off.  ;)
The Rev. Richard O. Johnson, STS

James S. Rustad

#10
I am 65 and work for a large company as a security engineer (a new role for me that I began a little over a year ago).  So far my health is holding up well enough that I am able to continue working (I was recruited for the new role, I had not even been looking).  I don't know how long that will be true.  If I don't notice it first, I fully expect my company to let me know if I decline enough to not perform.  I suspect that pastors do not often get that sort of feedback, and that can be a problem for them as well as the congregation.
"Malo periculosam, libertatem quam quietam servitutem." -Thomas Jefferson

Brian Stoffregen

I had planned to retire at 70 for the maximum SSA benefits, but foreseeing the finances at the congregation, I retired in 2019 at about 69.5.  I didn't want them dipping into savings to pay a pastor. We were able to wait until my wife turned 70 in 2021 before taking her Social Security. My income from the ELCA Pension and SSA is slightly more than I made working full-time. We stayed in town because we had recently remodeled our house to where my wife likes it; and my mother was in town. We stayed away from the congregation, although I tried to meet with every interim they had. When my mother died last year, I had the interim do the service, but I played piano and made a few comments.


When the interim had a stroke, they were having different ministers consecrate the elements. An Anglican priest whose congregation uses our buildings, usually preached, but he wasn't allowed to preside. A couple of Sundays I presided.


Since the called pastor has arrived, I've been asked a couple times to fill in for the pianist (which I'll be doing for his installation on Sunday) and he asked if I would lead the service on Pentecost. He will be having surgery that week. While I marked that I'd be willing to do pulpit supply, I don't expect much from that. We are nearly 200 miles from most other ELCA congregations.
I flunked retirement. Serving as a part-time interim in Ferndale, WA.

Donald_Kirchner

#12
I retired from the pastoral ministry (half-time call at a small congregation) nearly two years ago at age 70. I continue to practice law full time, but that's a job that, if I need to take a day or two off, I can adjust my schedule. During COVID, all court hearings were via Zoom, so we spent the month of February, 2022 near Ocala, Florida, and I went to court from the dining room table. We're back to in-person hearings, so couldn't do that this year.

I enjoy practicing law and feel that I'm making a contribution, so I plan to continue doing so, God willing that my health holds up. I do cover now and then for pastors on vacation or ill.
Don Kirchner

"Heaven's OK, but it's not the end of the world." Jeff Gibbs

D. Engebretson

We are so much more fortunate in our era regarding retirement in ministry.  I'm currently reading Going to Church in Medieval England (2021) by Nicholas Orme. He reports that for clergy "long-term disability was harder to deal with because there was no age of retirement.  A rector or vicar, once instituted, held his benefice for as long as he wished or lived" (70). This was the situation around 1300.  "After about 1400 a new arrangement became popular by which sick or elderly rectors and vicars resigned in return for an annual pension from the benefice. Pensions were usually fixed at a third of the benefice income." But that wasn't really guaranteed.  "The problem with benefices like Clyst Honiton was that they were too poor to support an infirm priest as well as a chaplain, or a new priest and a pensioner. Parish clergy in such places could either stagger on for as long as they could get away with doing so, or move to become the priest of a chantry or guild" (which obviously would not provide nearly as much as the previous benefice). He then goes on to note that "when parish chaplains and chantry or guild priests grew incapable, their lot was a sad one unless they had family support or private means, because their wages were too allow to allow saving money." 

When I consider retirement today I know that I have a pension, IRAs and other retirement income, and Social Security, which I can claim already, if I wished.  I will undoubtedly work beyond my formal retirement from the parish, but more as supplemental and for the pleasure of it.  I can't imagine "stagger(ing) on for as long as (I) could."  How hard it must have been for them then.
Pastor Don Engebretson
St. Peter Lutheran Church of Polar (Antigo) WI

Charles Austin

#14
I have long been advising younger pastors to begin careful planning for retirement. They need to consider things like the effect of low salaries on their Social Security, the cost of insurance premiums, whether the social security of a spouse will be present, if they have children who want to go to college, if a congregation pays housing equity and whether there may be times when they are unemployed.
   I saw many colleagues approach retirement without adequate resources. I saw elderly parishioners unable to care for their homes. I saw  synods establish special funds to help retired pastors with inadequate pensions. I knew one retired pastor who needed state aid to make it without losing his home.
   Beloved Spouse and I worked together in our planning. We figured her school teacher pension and social security alone would not sustain two of us. But my work outside the church and my freelance writing enabled us to do some saving and meant my social security would nearly match hers. We bought a house 40 years ago, and I was only unemployed for 11 months, during which I wrote magazine articles and published newsletters for several clients. My ELCA pension plan has performed well.
   So as retirement approached, we had a house we could sell and we knew we could afford what we needed to do, buy into a retirement continuing care community. But it took care and planning.
ELCA PASTOR. Iowa born and raised. And look at this. Here's the old 1960s protestor and critic of our government as virtually the only "love this country" patriot in this forum.

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