Most people love the concept of retirement, but they may not be prepared for the reality. Transitioning from jobholder to retiree is more difficult than most people realize.
While retirement is tough on everyone, pastors face unique challenges. Transitioning out of full-time ministry is tricky, and clergy often find themselves struggling with the change. It is important for Christians to understand these difficulties so that we can properly support and pray for those who have spent their lives ministering to us.
Here are four significant struggles that ministers face after retirement:
1. Sense of Identity
Every new retiree wrestles with direction. They have always imagined that their free time would be a blessing filled with grandkids and golf, but filling it up can quickly become a curse. For ministers, the struggle to find direction is intimately tied to their sense of identity.
Pastors entered vocational ministry because they felt called by God. Even when their occupation comes to an end, their calling does not. Many ministers wrestle with who they are if they are not ministering. When the challenge of understanding their calling apart from professional ministry is bundled with unlimited free time, paralysis can set in. Many retired pastors end up struggling with depression as they consider their future.
2. Feelings of Displacement
A pastor does not just lead his community—he belongs to it. Ideally a pastor would be able to retire and worship with the church in which he is emotionally invested, but it is not always that simple.
Many retiring pastors struggle with the change in their church roles. Even if they do their best to honor a new pastor and defer to his leadership, there are still church members who try to pit the retired pastor against the new minister. Because retired ministers feel like their input can undermine a new pastor’s ministry, they often end up moving on. This turns retirement into a bit of emotional exile.
3. Appropriate Boundaries
As we noted earlier, a pastor’s calling does not end when his job does. People will still come to retired ministers for guidance, counsel, and spiritual direction. Because it feels unspiritual and mean to turn people away, many retired ministers end up doing the same amount of work they were doing before, but for free.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with pastors continuing to minister in retirement, but it should be intentional and focused. Many pastors end up allowing others to fill their schedules because they are not sure how to create suitable boundaries.
4. Financial Insecurity
You will not find “pastor” on the Forbes list of best-paid professions. Many churches and denominations struggle to provide clergy with adequate pay and health insurance. It is no wonder that many do not also lavishly provide for pastoral retirement. This means that the onus for retirement is on the ministers themselves, and they often struggle to put enough away.
A 2016 Grey Matter Research poll on pastoral finances reported that a third of pastors have less than $10,000 put away for retirement. Many pastors end up ministering way beyond the time they should have retired because they simply need the paycheck. When they do retire, they struggle to make ends meet.
We’re Here to Help
With such limited means, retired clergy are always in danger of calamity. An activity as harmless as hanging Christmas lights could result in an accident that would leave a retired pastor completely destitute.
The Kairos Benevolence Fund assists retired clergy with emergency grants in case of a disaster or health crisis. These funds come from the contributions of concerned churches and individuals like you. If you are interested in helping to honor the legacy of these servants of the Kingdom, please donate today!