Reading time: ~4 minutes
The call was pretty typical. The pastor at the other end stated: “I think my time has come to move on to do something else.”
He had read my latest booklet entitled Pastor Legacy Life Plan. It didn’t push him over the edge but said it confirmed some of his thinking.
This pastor was not overly battered by the three “p’s” of the last 20 months that all churches have faced in leadership struggles:
Persons of color concerns
The church had been led well and mainly had unified on those fronts.
“I think it’s time to talk about succession and what I should do next.” After discussion for an hour or more, I gave him my opinion on what was next for him and the church.
We will recircle in a month after he and his spouse can pray through the questions I asked of him.
The current phrase America is “The Great Resignation.” This phrase is not a phenomenon just driving pastors to ask the question: Is now my time?
The New York Federal Reserve Bank latest survey puts the age that only about half of all workers are currently planning to work beyond age 62 in any job.
Corporate jobs have people leaving again at 55 – 58 years old. Many state, federal, teaching, and other public service roles often enable certain workers to retire in that time frame as well.
As mentioned in a prior newsletter, some of those could become new Senior Residents.
There is a related trend among younger workers who say - “This year next time I plan to work somewhere else!” But that is not my topic today.
But what about pastors?
The past few months have led to a rising tide of calls concerning their own plans.
Weight – The most prominent driver mentioned has been “the weight of leadership for today’s church.” The pandemic has not helped many in this case. I work with churches in Building Better Boards to help distribute the weight of leadership to others besides staff.
For the larger churches I serve, the focal point is the lead pastor. Over time, other leaders overweight their pastor’s ability to carry the load, especially as the pastor ages.
The three “Ps” above added weight during this past season. One was inevitable and manageable. But three with a wildcard for some churches on other issues becomes too stressful.
Wealth – We all thought the pandemic season would DECREASE wealth held by typical Americans. It hasn’t. Those with funds invested have seen good growth in the past year. Pastors who have saved and invested have seen their contributions grow as well.
In my succession consulting and coaching, I used to see pastors less prepared financially than today. My last three conversations had pastors who had been advised well and had good plans for the future.
In the case of other churches and pastors, there are often ways to help ease that transition in financial terms to help the church continue to move ahead.
Wellness of Church – Most of my clients lead relatively healthy churches. But they know that for the church to move forward in health, a new leader will be needed soon. While not impossible, most communicators best speak to those within ten years of their age. Reaching other demographics requires another primary speaker/teacher to explaining God’s word. As one pastor said to me last week: “When I speak, I am talking about my grandkids, and when our other teaching pastor speaks, they are talking about their baby in the cradle. The younger families identify more with that teaching pastor’s life situation.”
Of course, being the Senior/Lead pastor is not just about teaching and preaching. Most of it is not. But we do lead with those activities, and congregants naturally look to the teaching and preaching to guide the whole church.
Wise pastors give the long-term health of the church a great weight to their plans. Some have felt this was a pivotal time to step out or take a more minor role.
Family/Health concerns – Health concerns have risen for many of the pastors I talked with over the last few months. Most enjoy good health overall. Some of their spouses have some issues that need addressing. Some now have other family members, including parents and children, with key concerns in the bigger picture.
The decision some are making is to begin the process of handing over leadership to give more time to build more time for family concerns.
The pandemic has led to many reevaluations as to how to invest their time in the next decade. Some pastors realize they have underinvested in familial relationships. The past season of stress has brought that to light.
Implications after the ad
Are you a Senior Pastor of a larger church?
Our weekly Senior Pastor Forum has a special session next week.
Our old friend Dr. Warren Bird is back to highlight some research currently featured in Outreach Magazine.
How are larger churches positioned for post-pandemic growth?
On the October 6 edition of the Senior Pastor Forum call, he will share both the research that he and Scott Thumma did recently and take your questions.
He may even sneak us a peek at some other research he has going over at ECFA.
Learn more about their current reports here.
Dr. Warren Bird is the foremost researcher of larger churches in the US, (and maybe the world.) He was for many years the research director at Leadership Network and worked closely with Dave Travis but don’t hold that against him.
Hope we see you on October 6th. It’s every week at 4 p.m. EASTERN. If you are a Senior Pastor of a larger church and don’t have a link – get one from Linda.Stanley@generis.com
Are you an Executive Pastor?
Look for a special survey with REAL MONEY incentives to complete coming soon from Generis, Xpastor.org and Thrivent Church Loans.
If you want to make sure you get it for the highest incentive, email me directly this week - firstname.lastname@example.org.
Good people are going to demand premium prices.
The competition for Senior/Lead pastor talent will continue to rise, especially for larger churches. If there is no developed internal candidate, the price rises even further, as does the risk.
There are ways to minimize some of that risk for poor succession, but they take time to work through.
Will people reenter?
The “Great Resignation” in corporate and nonprofit sectors creates an excellent opportunity for some churches. Some of this is in the frame of Senior Residents or Mission Mobilizers. (see above) But also for some that can serve as high-level church staff.
Before starting a national search, ask around for those who may have needed a break from their past role but could be ready to jump in with a healthy team.
Good health for future service
While I have seen less of this in the past decade, my guess is that some pastors that exit now and totally step away from their current church and the pastoral role will reenter a church leadership/pastor role in the future in a different context. This role could be in a lead pastor position but in a smaller church.
They need a break now, and the time away will re-set some priorities in life and give them fresh energy for the future.
Some will step into campus pastor roles at larger churches and become a valuable team member serving a younger senior or lead pastor. This is a crucial place that search firms can help both congregations and these seemingly retired pastors.
Often this will happen with there has been a significant life change in the pastor’s household or a relocation to a different part of the country. Good matching between talent, wisdom, leadership and the proper ministry setting could help accelerate kingdom growth.
Still, others will enter the service of a nonprofit or parachurch group where communication skills are needed but are not weekly occurrences, and constituencies are built less around oral communication gifts.
A sliver will reengage by entering marketplace businesses and find new joy and fulfillment there. As some tell me: “I wish I had this experience earlier in my career because it would have made me a better pastor.”
Is it time to have a conversation about your future? If this has resonated with you, feel free to reach out directly and confidentially to me. Just hit reply or send a text to 404.348.8317, and we can set up a call.