The following industries have mandatory retirement ages:
Air traffic controllers.
Some government employees.
Why not pastors?
I was part of a committee that studied/analyzed/evaluated Adventist ministry. Contrary to many other committees I have been a part of, I didn’t feel I was wasting my time. There were several discussions and recommendations that came out of it, and just the fact that we are acknowledging the huge elephant in the room is progress. One of the discussions centered on the reality that in the next 10 years, 50% of pastors will be eligible for retirement. Notice I said eligible. We assume that pastors want to retire. Many don’t. Some do.
One of the solutions/suggestions talked about in some circles is having a mandatory retirement age for pastors at 70. You can retire earlier, but 70 is the limit. At first it sounded like ageism. As I debated it in my mind the pros and cons I decided to write about it. Here are three thoughts I have RIGHT NOW. My mind can be changed with better reflection and evidence, but so far this is my opinion.
- Mandatory retirement will give millennials an opportunity, not more lip service.
If you haven’t read this post from Chad Stuart http://www.chadnstuart.com/2014/09/more-than-a-voice/ please do. It is a call to the church to involve millennials at every level. The truth is that everyone wants to keep millennials but no one wants to retire so that they can have a job. Over 150 candidates graduated the seminary this year. How many will find jobs? The answer is…NOT MANY. Older pastors could be mentors, serve in less than FTE required posts, interim assignments, etc. We are not really serious about engaging millennials until we hire millennials.
- Implement a career long evaluative process.
Evaluation and pastors have not been great bedfellows. Usually a pastor is evaluated when some disastrous crisis has taken place, when the conference wants to make sure that the discontent coming from the church is real or when the pastor has been in a location for a while and a move might make sense. There is not consistent, intentional, grace and growth oriented in many conferences. That is just a fact. (a topic for another blog). I believe that if we implement a simple yearly evaluative process with a more comprehensive one every 3-5 years, it will determine early on the fitness of pastors for ministry. One of the hardest things to do (save for reasons of adultery or financial inappropriateness) is to fire an ineffective pastor. I’m on the pastors side. Yet I know of some that should have never been one. This way, we avoid ageism, but value effectiveness over purely an age decision.
- Retirement does not mean loss of effectiveness of lack of appreciation.
If it seems like I am wavering and kind of schizophrenic with my thoughts, you are probably right. I have seen some older pastors just biding time. Maintenance mode, without any new ideas and in fact resisting any new ideas. I have also seen some young pastors make extremely poor decisions that split churches and think they are the second coming of TD, Andy, Alejandro or Dwight. I have also seen older pastors that grow their church and younger pastors that do the same. So, where is the balance?
For me, a great example is Alejandro Bullon. Served his church masterfully for 40 years, to the day. When he retired he was extremely effective and could still do great things. Yet he retired. Now in retirement he is still busy, has produced several movies, holds stadium size crusades and writes extensively. All from the vantage point of retirement. Retirement is not the end. It’s more about providing an opportunity than a rejection of your ministry.
I want to know your thoughts on this topic. Especially I would like people that think differently than me to respond. It’s always good to hear all sides before forming an opinion.
Write me or comment below. Keep comments respectful but honest. Let’s talk about it.