Three of my friends who happened to be pastors got into a discussion, about retirement. Tom, who was 29, briefly and bluntly blurted out his position: “I don’t have to give a single thought to retirement until I’m 65—maybe even 70—because of new laws. Man, my retirement is a long way off.”

Dick, who was 55, said, “Oh, I think about retirement occasionally, but I’ve got lots of time. I have so much to do in First Church—it’s a large congregation. I’ll just keep on going as long as the good Lord lets me.”

Then there was Harry, 64. He commented, “I’ve certainly been doing a great deal of planning in the last six months because I never thought much about retirement before. I have always thought I had nothing to consider. Now I’m changing my mind. I do, of course, want to retire when I am 65; I have put in 39 good years for the Lord Jesus Christ and his church. I want and need a change of pace. Maybe I can find part-time pastoral work.”

Which one of the three is right? The answer is that there is no one right answer. Many things must be considered. As a starter, here are a half-dozen things to consider concerning retirement.

1. Do not wait too long to retire; in other words, stop on time. I know several pastors who waited too long.

Sam, who waited to complete 40 years in one congregation, is now 70, in poor physical condition, and he has difficulty seeing and hearing.

Pete served a congregation whose constitution required that he retire after the age of 70 unless he received a one-year-term call by vote of the congregation. He received the call for several years, but when he lost the last time, he was greatly disappointed.

Paul, who should have retired several years earlier when poor health overtook him, did not want to retire until a certain birthday.

Nelson said he would “continue as long as the Lord gives me strength.” This is surely a pious phrase that seems pure gold, but it is open to question.

2. Various people should be consulted right along. Except in independent congregations, you should consult the proper executive of your church denomination, according to your confidence in him. I was helped greatly by my own synod president, who secured a part-time position for me upon my retirement. He was my bishop in the best sense, and I have thanked him. You should also discuss the matter with your board’s pastoral relations committee.

3. What will you live on? How will you live? How are you fixed financially for retirement? No matter how trusting in the Lord you are, you must make financial plans.

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Think of Christian stewardship. Some retired pastors have even higher income after retirement than before because of pension, social security, and part-time work.

Think of life insurance. It may be best to drop your term insurance because you already have had the protection. Payments on whole life policies will be less each year because of dividends. Such policies may be changed to paid-up insurance or extended insurance good for a certain period. It may be best to surrender whole life insurance and invest the proceeds.

Since medical costs usually represent a large portion of retirement costs, sign up for both parts of Medicare three months before age 65. You should bridge the gaps in Medicare coverage through supplementary insurance or your church’s pension fund.

4. Where should you live in retirement? If you do not own a home, are you going to buy a house or a condominium, or will you rent a house or an apartment? Increasing numbers of ministers own their own homes. If you go on living in the same place, the question arises of your relationship to the congregation from which you have retired—often as pastor emeritus without remuneration. You want to have the best of relationships with the new, younger pastor, and you should do nothing in that congregation without consulting him. Of course, if you have a part-time position in the congregation as, for example, visitation pastor, you will know what to do.

Some ministers have retired to warmer climates or to places where they have formerly lived and served, or even to their birthplaces. But be warned in advance that no one of these plans is necessarily the best solution.

5. Plan what you are going to do with your time when you retire. Most pastors have hobbies. The range is wide, from mechanical interests to research in history, philosophy, and theology. Some pastors and their wives travel extensively in retirement.

Many want to do part-time work, either in the church or elsewhere. Some denominational executives recommend that retirees find part-time work. There are other retirees who do not want to do anything—even to preach an occasional sermon. One pastor emphasized that while he had never been asked to preach after retiring, he really did not want to preach. For one thing, he was in poor health. Certainly those who wish to be free of all responsibilities should not be criticized. They have given themselves in full-time service for the Lord Jesus Christ and if they want no further responsibilities, they are entitled to that privilege.

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6. Consider the wide opportunities open to you in retirement. It is best to keep your contacts with coworkers in the church by attending local pastoral meetings as in the past, annual meetings and national denominational meetings that may be of interest, especially if they are nearby. It is unfortunate that some retired ministers drop out of everything.

It is also good to keep up contacts with secular, educational, and cultural activities. For example, when I retired I moved to Buffalo, New York, where I have had several part-time positions as visitation pastor, supply preacher, and interim pastor. In Buffalo, there is a full range of activities. My wife and I attend many events, especially those in which we have had a long-time interest.

Finally, keep up your contacts with ministers, lay people, relatives, and friends, both those who are already retired and those who are not retired, in order to get well-rounded viewpoints. Read books, magazines, and newspapers, including columns on retirement. Be a volunteer in various organizations. You can serve in many different ways in your community. If you conducted Christian services in hospitals or nursing homes before retirement, continue to do so. Think of leisure, tours, trips, and visits.

Maybe, in retirement, you can do even more than you did before.

HOWARD A. KUHNLEMr. Kuhnle serves part-time as visitation pastor for Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Buffalo, New York. He also preaches often in area churches and is currently interim pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Seneca, New York.

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