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5 trends of retiring Baby Boomer pastors

Thom Rainer headshot

On January 1, 2011, 100,000 Baby Boomers reached age 65. Every day since then, another 100,000 Boomers turn 65. Many of them retire at that age or shortly thereafter.

That’s a lot of retired Boomers. Among them are a lot of retiring pastors.

So, we recently asked a number of retired or retiring Boomer pastors what they planned to do in their next stage of life. We received five common responses among them:

  1. Boomer pastors are not retiring from vocational ministry. We received that message loud and clear. No Boomer with whom we spoke was planning a life of travel and rocking chairs exclusively. These pastors had definitive ideas, some concrete plans, about what they would do next.
  2. The most common path was to become an interim pastor. Slightly under half of the respondents had this ministry as a clear path. Many of them had interim pastorates waiting on them when they retired. One pastor who retired six years ago has already served in seven interim roles, almost without a break.
  3. Some Boomer pastors will serve on church staff in a different role. Most of them chose not to serve at the church from where they were retiring. But it was not unusual for some of them to return to a church they served in earlier years, this time doing ministry in a part-time or full-time staff role. We are also watching a growing trend among retiring pastors to serve in church revitalization and replanting roles.
  4. It is not unusual for a Boomer pastor to mentor other pastors in retirement. Indeed, most of these pastors have a wealth of knowledge, experience, and wisdom to share with other pastors. The Millennial pastors seemed to be the most eager to be mentored by retired Boomer pastors.
  5. About one of ten retired Boomer pastors are becoming church consultants. This role is similar to mentoring or coaching pastors, but they examine the health of the entire church instead of just working with one person.

Another common response we heard is that many Boomer pastors are serving in more than one of these capacities. I know one retired pastor who is serving as a pastor in a church revitalization, coaching six other pastors, and consulting with two or three churches a year! Retirement no longer means what retirement meant just a few years ago. The Boomers as a whole don’t seem to have any plans to slow down.

Are you a Boomer retiree or a Boomer planning to retire in the near future? I would love to hear your plans. What does God have next for you?

(See our two certification ministries used by many retiring or retired pastors and staff: www.ChurchConsultation.University and www.InterimPastor.University.)

Originally posted at

Thom S. Rainer is the founder and CEO of Church Answers, an online community and resource for church leaders. Prior to founding Church Answers, Rainer served as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources.

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