Recently, someone asked me if I was retired. The question flummoxed (a word for William’s list) me somewhat. That’s because I am partially retired. These days I’m receiving Social Security payments as well as withdrawals on my Guidestone account. The IMB made me an Emeritus Missionary, and Mid-America Seminary named me a Professor Emeritus. So, by those measures, I am retired. Yet, I still go on international mission trips, and I still teach some for Mid-America Baptist Seminary. Beyond that, our church has graciously provided me with an office, and I serve in various ways in our church. I know that William Thornton does the same at his church in Georgia. So, I’m “kind of” retired.
The question put to me caused me to think about a broader question—Should a pastor ever retire? Of course, I realize that pastors can become physically and mentally unable to continue in ministry. My own father is 98 years old and lives in a nursing home. He is physically incapable of doing ministry now, and that frustrates him. Other pastors struggle with dementia, and they can no longer function in ministry. Nevertheless, what about those of us who are retirement age and remain sound of mind and body? What can we do in our “golden years”?
Serve as an interim pastor. “Retired” pastors can bless churches while the churches seek a pastor. Some state conventions have Intentional Interim programs that aid troubled churches.
Serve as a supply preacher. All churches need a supply preacher sometimes
Assist your church’s pastor. Most pastors would be grateful for a retired pastor who would assist with visiting the hospital, nursing home, and shut-ins.
Do nursing home ministry. A retired pastor might volunteer to serve as the chaplain for a nursing home or assisted living facility.
Serve as a police or fire department chaplain. Smaller police and fire departments may not have a chaplain, and they would be grateful to have one.
Serve in Baptist Men’s Disaster Relief. My brother-in-law is active in the Oklahoma Baptist Men’s Disaster Relief Unit. He has encouraged me to become a Disaster Relief chaplain. He told me there is a great need for chaplains.
Mentor young pastors. You might tell your associational leader that you would be willing to mentor one or more new pastors.
Go on mission trips. Home and foreign mission trips provide great opportunities for ministry.
Serve as a short-term volunteer in international or North American missions. Both the IMB have opportunities for retired pastors to serve for a few weeks or a few months.
Serve on associational and state convention committees. When I was a pastor, I avoided such service because I did not have time. I have the time now.
Volunteer at homeless and women’s shelters. When we lived in Memphis, the Calvary Rescue Mission made an appeal for preachers. Inner city ministry centers always need counselors and other volunteers.
Teach a Sunday school class. I have a retired missionary friend who has found fulfillment in teaching a Sunday School class.
My personal conviction is that we pastors should continue to serve the Lord as long as we are able. What do you think? Do you have other suggestions for service during “retirement”?