I am also a fellow pastor who started ministry in the 1970s (a far different time than today).   I am eligible to retire in a few months and have sought counsel about when to retire, how to retire, and how to tell the congregation.   I have gotten no help whatsoever from my denomination officials who just say "you are on your own but when you retire don't look back and interfere with your previous church".  
   Since someday you will be in this position how will you decide these questions?


Thanks for writing.  Based on the response from your denominational officials, I can guess what denomination it is.  They probably advise that because of many bad past experiences with pastors who have done that, and I have seen similar circumstances where that mistake has been made turn out quite disastrously.  As you are experiencing, though, that is not all there is to say.  

From what I have observed in my own denomination, the pastors usually make their retirement publicly known approximately 6-9 months in advance in smaller congregations or dual parishes, and sometimes up to a year in advance if there are special circumstances that might necessitate more time to ensure that the ministry of the congregation or the mission of the organization can continue unimpaired.  One would usually make this known to elders, board of directors, or a similar smaller group of leaders first so that they can begin preparations and not be caught off guard.  

Some pastors retire in place and transfer to a neighboring congregation so as not to interfere with the following pastors ministry, while others move to another city or another state based on where they desire to live out their retirement and other considerations such as location of family.   I have occasionally seen a pastor retire and remain in his congregation as a visitation pastor or pastoral assistant or merely as a member who rarely attends because he is frequently filling in at neighboring congregations.  However, this takes a great deal of discipline on the part of the retiree and a high degree of confidence and maturity on the part of his successor in order to work out well, and even then many denominations discourage this as you have seen.  

As for myself, I think it will depend a lot on where I am and what my role is at the time.  If I were serving in a parish position, I imagine I would move to a place where I could conveniently see as many of my children and grandchildren as often as possible, and there I would contribute whatever service I could to the congregations in the area.  If I were serving in a more specialized role, such as at a service organization, the corporate denomination, or an educational institution, then it would be more likely I would retire there and continue to consult in my area of specialty in my retirement, or contribute to the organization's mission in a more limited capacity after retirement.  


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Rev. Jason P. Peterson


I welcome the opportunity to answer questions regarding the similarities and differences between the various denominations of Christianity, especially those which involve the Reformation Traditions of Christianity (Lutheran, Calvinist, etc). I also take a great interest in examining new Christian movements and popular trends in Christianity from a Reformation perspective. I have particular expertise in the original Greek text of the New Testament and its meaning, as well as questions regarding liturgy, evangelism, and preaching.


I have been a pastor in the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod for the past six years at St. John's Lutheran Church in Burt, IA. I currently serve as chairman of the Commission on Ministerial Growth & Support of the Missouri Synod's Iowa District West and as Track Chaplain at Algona Raceway in Algona, IA. I also write as a religion columnist for two local newspapers.

Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod

B.A. Concordia University - Ann Arbor, MI (Biblical Languages) M.Div. Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN (Exegetical Theology, Pastoral Ministry & Missions)

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