The challenges facing our baby boomer pastors
I am one of you.
We are the generation born between 1946 and 1964. Until the Millennials came along, we were the largest generation in American history. Our influence is still great.
But most of us are surprised our older years arrived so quickly. We can remember when we didn’t trust anyone over the age of 30. Now we think 30-somethings are kids. Many of us have difficulty dealing with this phase of our life and ministry. Older age was for “those people.” It never was supposed to be about us.
And now we are here. Our ages range from 54 to 72. We are in our fourth quarter. How do we end well, especially if we are in vocational ministry? Allow me to make four suggestions.
1. Make your life one of mentoring. You have rich experiences. You have served as pastor of good churches and tough churches. You know the joys of ministry. You know the pains of ministry. You know what it is like to be ready to throw in the towel. Find a Millennial pastor. Grab a coffee with him. Go with no agenda other than to get to know him better and to pray for him. See what God will do with that relationship.
2. Don’t let your vocation be your identity. Your identity is child of the living God. Your identity is Christ. It is not your title or your position or your church. We Boomers often get so caught up in our work and ministry that it begins to define who we are. As a consequence, we have trouble letting go when it’s time to leave. That brings me to the next point.
3. Know when to leave. We Boomers won’t retire in the classic sense. We want to keep making a difference. But sometimes that means we hold on to a position too long. You are not indispensable. Trust God to find your successor. Trust God to help you with your finances. Trust God to find you a place where you can make a difference. But don’t hang on so long your church or organization declines and wonders if you will ever leave. It’s not about you. Make room for the next person. Make room for the next generation.
4. Consider a fourth quarter ministry in another place. Perhaps it’s time to move on and serve under a younger pastor in another church, even if it’s part time. Perhaps it’s time to be highly intentional about mentoring, coaching, or consulting with other churches and pastors. Perhaps it’s time for you to take a subservient role even though you have led as a pastor for years. Consider all the options God may put before you.
We are about to see a great exodus of Boomer pastors and church leaders through retirement and death. The data indicates we don’t have enough church leaders to fill these vacancies. Maybe we Boomers can be highly intentional about raising up this next generation of church leaders.
It’s time, fellow Boomers. It’s time for us to consider how to transition in this phase of our life and ministry. Don’t hold on to those things where God has told you to let go.
It might be a scary next step. But, like your original call to ministry, the God who gave you a path and opportunities will do the same in this new, and possibly, last phase of ministry.
It’s time to let go, whatever that may mean, and trust God.
He will provide.
This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on December 6. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and seven grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer
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