Archives For September 2014

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.

  1. Mandatory retirement will give millennials an opportunity, not more lip service.

If you haven’t read this post from Chad Stuart 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

“When I was interviewed by the Michigan conference to come to PMC I was 30 years old. The person doing the interviewing asked me: So, Dwight, how long do you think you will stay? Since our previous pastoral assignments had lasted an average of 2.9 years, I was at a loss for words. I looked at my wife and neither of us knew what to say. I thought about it for a moment and responded: I’ll stay 7 years. They all looked at each other and said: Yes. We’ll take it.

It’s been 32 years since that day. Dwight Nelson continues to pastor (and thrive) in a university campus church. I sat down with him for part 2 of the series on pastoral longevity. Here are 5 principles I gleaned from him:

  1. “Ministry is like holding a butterfly in your hand.”

Ministry is like holding a butterfly. You can look at it, enjoy its beauty, but if you squeeze it you will destroy it. It’s not yours. It’s not about you. You are just a steward of its beauty for a season. You are successful at the same location for over thirty years for the same reason you are successful for one year. Understand it’s not about you. You have been given a gift. Enjoy it while you have it, how ever long that is.

It all starts with your relationship with God. If the pastor is not connected to God he can fool the people for a while but not for long. Your decision making when considering a call is also rooted in that relationship. One of Dwight’s mentors and prayer partners taught him a valuable lesson: “Unless you hear otherwise, His previous order still stands.”

  1. “I get to reinvent myself. That’s great!”

Two advantages of long term pastorates:

-Life cycles. I get to minister to people from cradle to casket. Getting involved in people’s lives and seeing them mature, grow, cry, laugh, and a host of other experiences that I can enjoy over the long haul.

-Opportunity for reinvention.  This is probably the one he got the most excited about. There is a common denominator I have seen in pastors that thrive. That is the desire to pace themselves but not to settle. They are always asking the questions: what’s next? How can we be more effective? What’s missing?

  1. “I get to reinvent myself. That’s hard!”

The best things in life are often the worst things in life. The activity/person/occupation that causes you the most joy can also cause you the most pain. I sensed that for Dwight it was difficult to see a part of his congregation leave and establish very close by a ministry which stated desire was to connect more effectively with the same demographic Dwight was trying to reach, namely young adults. That was probably one of the times in his life that he had to do some real deep soul searching and process emotionally what he already knew intellectually: this is about Jesus. Not you.

Out of those difficult, soul searching times, came (as it often does for all of us) a renewed vision, compacted worship service, and a clearer understanding of mission and growth.

  1. “Speak to 20 something’s. Let the world look in.”

I asked Dwight how does he balance the need to speak to his local congregation while at the same time using the platform he has been given to speak on important issues of the day. More than 20 years ago when the TV ministry started, they made a conscious decision: They were going to minister to the college community, and let the world look in if they were interested. They were. His primary focus is his local flock and if what he has to say addresses the larger issues, then that is an added benefit.

  1. “Criticism. If it hurt your pride, it means you had pride to begin with.”

Dwight has managed to reach countless people. Among them are critics. He has received criticism from some regarding his position on Women’s Ordination, and others for believing that Ellen White was in fact a prophet who was inspired by God. After a sermon on the Sabbath he received 2 notes. One congratulated him for the message, the other one believed it was terrible. He showed the notes to an Elder who told him: “Didn’t they teach you in seminary not to read the fan mail till you get home?”


I hope the principles gathered here can help us become better pastors where the butterfly has landed now, whether it be for 3 years or 30. And never tell a conference president how long you will stay. I bet God got a few chuckles out of that one… “He said 7 years? Ok. Let’s keep him there for…”


Take look at the ministry of PMC:


I was worshiping in a congregation (in the last year) that had Adventist Church in the sign, but might as well call themselves Announcement Church, because that’s all they did. They had one person do announcements from the front in Power Point, followed by another person who reaffirmed the previous announcements with no power point, followed by the pastor who highlighted yet some others. It easily took almost 20 minutes. Probably closer to 30.

This does not happen every week, but too often to be overlooked. I personally believe, through experience and research that guests don’t really come to church looking to find out when the next fund raising car wash is. I have also been to enough growing, healthy churches that do minimal announcements from the front to know a church can thrive with a change in this area. Here are 5 suggestions you can use if you want to be more sensitive to guests (and members):

Change the name– I believe you can live without announcements from the front, but if you must do them, changing the name of that section can be helpful. Calling them “announcements” will produce the blank stare and yawn. Call them Highlights. Opportunities. Whatever you do, maximum time should be 3 minutes.

Change the delivery method– Millennials and Builders share and process information differently. People in marketing will tell you that individuals need to hear information at least 3 times before it makes an impact. (

So use: Website. Text message. QR Codes. Power Points on loop in lobby or sanctuary. Videos. Social Media. Announcement Table. This takes time and takes preparation. Since many churches run on a week to week crisis mode, instead of early intentional planning it will require the leadership to dedicate the time necessary to make this work. Here is a website that will convert your announcements into video.

Change the time– I have seen announcements done at the most inopportune times. These are:

At the very beginning. No one is there!

After a very stirring and powerful praise time. Announcements are to worship what pins are to balloons.

Right before the sermon. Just preach dude.

Right after the closing song. Let the people go!

Change the length– never more than 3 minutes. Your job as a leader is not to do it like it has always been done, but to do it right!

Change the delivery person– last church I pastored we eliminated up-front, lengthy announcements. We used the bulletin and I personally announced in the worship service one or two of the most important upcoming opportunities. This is tricky, because some pastors have the gift of making a short announcement into an hour long diatribe. But usually when the pastor speaks, it carries weight. Please don’t do it right before you preach or ask people to sit and wait for a last announcement right after you preach. It takes a while for people to adjust. But they do.

Hope this was helpful. More prayer. More word. More study. More fellowship. More music. Less announcements.

P.S. This is a slightly different perspective to mine:

What are some ideas you have? Reply in the comment section with funny, crazy or interesting stories or suggestions.

Men. Prayer. That is two words that s7-22-14 Posterhould go together, but often don’t. On October 3-5 of 2015, that can change!

When I was a local church pastor I had a much harder time getting the Men’s Ministry going than I did the Women’s Ministry. I don’t know why that was, but at times it was like pulling teeth. Once we started doing the breakfasts and outings, things changed for the better.

We have a wonderful opportunity next month to do something for the men in our churches. Its idea was birthed by the desire to see men come together and grow as leaders, fathers, husbands, godly men.

Here are 5 ways you can help the men in your church grow through this event:

1. Encourage your men to go. Let them know the benefits of “coming away awhile.” We are not human doings, we need to mirror God’s rhythm that is: Work. Rest. Work. Rest. When we break that rhythm we become broken. Spending time in sustained prayer can cure a million ills.

2. Sponsor at least one person from your church. It can be the Men’s Ministry or potential Men’s Ministry Director. It can be a man that you know needs a weekend away from the turmoil in his life. It can be someone that you have seen go above and beyond for the church. The quality of the event will not only impress them, but will bless them.

3. Let your men know about it. I perfectly understand the constant barrage of events that you are asked to promote. Just share this information with your people via email. Let people know. Let God do the rest.

4. Go. Here is an idea: Why don’t you get a speaker for the day, give your wife a nice gift card, kiss the dog goodbye and come join us? Trust me, your church will survive, while you are growing.

5. Bring a guest. Events like these are great evangelism opportunities. Help a guest get there and it can make a difference in his life both now and in eternity.

Don’t go for the speakers, although there will be excellent speakers. Don’t go for the seminars although they will instruct and inspire. Go for God. Go for growth. Go.

*The deadline has been extended!