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6 lessons from retiring pastors

A pastor preaches in this file photo. |

Rarely a week goes by that I don’t hear from Boomer pastors who just retired, are considering retirement, or wish they could retire.

I am listening carefully. And I am learning a lot as I listen. Most of it is not very encouraging.

  1. Most pastors are underpaid. I have to monitor my sanctification when I hear snarky comments like, “Pastors are in it for the money” or “Pastors make too much money.” Sure, there are ungodly exceptions. But they are indeed exceptions and they are rare. As I listen to Boomer pastors and understand their compensation through the years, my heart breaks. Many of these servants, for the hours they work, have barely been paid living wages.
  2. Too many pastors refuse raises. Their motives are honorable. They want the money to go to ministry. They want their staff better paid. They want the church to pay off its debt. They don’t want to hurt the church. But now these Boomer pastors realize they don’t have sufficient funds for retirement. They fear they will be a burden to their families. Pastors: Stop saying “no” to raises. You are hurting your family now and in the future.
  3. Few pastors give sufficient thought to retirement. They commonly say, “God will take care of me.” Others say, “I don’t ever plan on retiring.” The problem is many Boomer pastors are “retired” involuntarily by their churches. Some are not physically able to remain as a pastor. Others are close to emotional burnout. Again, these pastors become dependent on others in retirement.
  4. Many pastors have too much debt leading into retirement. The most common scenario we are hearing from Boomer pastors is they bought their home later in life. They have a 30-year mortgage with 10 years remaining. Some have also burdened themselves and their families with consumer debt just to get by.
  5. A number of pastors have given little thought to health care costs. Even if these pastors are eligible for Medicare, many of them have no concept of what Medicare does not cover. Sadly, they are often unable to afford any Medicare supplements. As a consequence, these retired pastors neglect their own health for fear of uncovered expenses.
  6. The common theme of many of these Boomer pastors is over-spiritualizing their financial reality without the wisdom of planning for their future years. Yes, faith that God will take care of us is a good thing. No, faith without planning is not wise. The writer of Proverbs said it in 15:22: “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” Jesus said it Luke 14:28: “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?”

Pastors: Learn these lessons from your fellow Boomer pastors who are retirement age. Learn and apply their lessons before it’s too late for you.

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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