Church succession can be a sticky subject and sometimes involves a lot of awkward conversations. But it doesn’t have to. As pastors age, they can prepare so that the transition of leadership in their churches passes smoothly and their churches are set to stay on a healthy trajectory.
A variety of reasons for change
A number of things can make it difficult for pastors to step down or retire as they grow near retirement age. These can range from a deep attachment to the church and a reluctance to relinquish their leadership of it, to fear of change and a resistance to enter into a season of retirement, to the need for financial security.
This last reason can come from a very legitimate need. If they have been serving at a small church, they may have no means of retirement and only making ends meet. We need to find a way to ensure these pastors are cared for while the church is allowed to continue to grow into the next season of ministry and mission.
Too often, many churches reach a point where people say, “I wish that pastor would retire.” We never want to overstay our welcome. For example, we’ve all been in situations where we invited people over and have had a great time, but then they stay a bit too long and we yearn for them to go home.
Wishing a pastor would retire is not a great start for a smooth transition of launching the church into a healthy future. When the congregation starts to long for a pastor to retire, but the pastor refuses to recognize it, it creates an uncomfortable situation. Someone trusted must go to the pastor and lovingly speak into their life, encouraging the pastor to step down.
Note that this does not mean when pastors enter their 60s we simply ship them out. It is not uncommon, in fact, for pastors to really hit their stride in this season of life as they’ve had many experiences, much wisdom, and countless hours of training to bring to the table.
But when pastors do get into their 60s, it is wise for them to start thinking about succession and forming a plan. It’s similar to what we do in life as we get older. We prepare our family and children (if we have children) for what happens when we are gone or no longer capable of doing the things we do. If a church delays making and implementing a plan for succession for too long, the church can begin to age with the pastor.
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Source: Christianity Today