Retirement from pastoring a church: thoughts for consideration

Presuppositions… … Everyone should someday. … There probably is no such thing as a perfect time. … You should save the date and stay with it, not keep extending it. … No doubt you owe it to your wife.

Timing — You want to make this transition before they wish you would have. — It can be announced too early, making you a lame duck in the eyes of many. It seems like one year or a little more is good for a board discussion. But 3 to 6 months for the members. Any longer and the lame duck affect sets in. That gives them enough time to say goodbye and also think about the future and pray. Again, the date should be set and there is no perfect time.


  • See options. Many believe there is no perfect way.
  • The plan must be acceptable to the board and pastor of course.
  • If someone is brought in a year or two before the retirement, everyone will know he is the potential successor. Why not state it?
  • The “shelf life” for a pastor-in waiting is less than two years.
  • Anyone who might possibly be interested on staff should be looked at first and told of the possibility. It is unfair to outside candidate to have someone on staff who might be considered.

Residence: Most would say the retiring pastor should not remain in the area or at least not attend that church for at least a year. Some exceptions to this have worked if there was a clear understanding beforehand.

Severance: This is very subjective. It should be understood and on paper so no misunderstandings. Many suggest there should be one week of salary for every year of service. Then there’s the question of health insurance. Hopefully the retirement package has been very clear.

Prayer: Crucial from the beginning