Five Trends of Retiring Baby Boomer Pastors

On January 1, 2011, 10,000 Baby Boomers reached age 65. Every day since then, another 10,000 Boomers turn 65. Many of them retire at that age or shortly thereafter.

That’s a lot of retired Boomers. Among them are a lot of retiring pastors.

So, we recently asked a number of retired or retiring Boomer pastors what they planned to do in their next stage of life. We received five common responses among them:

  1. Boomer pastors are not retiring from vocational ministry. We received that message loud and clear. No Boomer with whom we spoke was planning a life of travel and rocking chairs exclusively. These pastors had definitive ideas, some concrete plans, about what they would do next.
  2. The most common path was to become an interim pastor. Slightly under half of the respondents had this ministry as a clear path. Many of them had interim pastorates waiting on them when they retired. One pastor who retired six years ago has already served in seven interim roles, almost without a break.
  3. Some Boomer pastors will serve on church staff in a different role. Most of them chose not to serve at the church from where they were retiring. But it was not unusual for some of them to return to a church they served in earlier years, this time doing ministry in a part-time or full-time staff role. We are also watching a growing trend among retiring pastors to serve in church revitalization and replanting roles.
  4. It is not unusual for a Boomer pastor to mentor other pastors in retirement. Indeed, most of these pastors have a wealth of knowledge, experience, and wisdom to share with other pastors. The Millennial pastors seemed to be the most eager to be mentored by retired Boomer pastors.
  5. About one of ten retired Boomer pastors are becoming church consultants. This role is similar to mentoring or coaching pastors, but they examine the health of the entire church instead of just working with one person.

Another common response we heard is that many Boomer pastors are serving in more than one of these capacities. I know one retired pastor who is serving as a pastor in a church revitalization, coaching six other pastors, and consulting with two or three churches a year! Retirement no longer means what retirement meant just a few years ago. The Boomers as a whole don’t seem to have any plans to slow down.

Are you a Boomer retiree or a Boomer planning to retire in the near future? I would love to hear your plans. What does God have next for you?

(See our two certification ministries used by many retiring or retired pastors and staff: www.ChurchConsultation.University and www.InterimPastor.University.)

Posted on September 23, 2019

With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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  • I will be 70 in a week and I still am active in ministry as a part-time assistant pastor visiting the sick and shut ins of our church. Another evangelism/discipleship ministry I continue to develop, started in 1989 out of my service as a hospice chaplain. It is entitled You Last Forever Ministries ( and is being used in the US, Africa, and India. My ministry at home now includes caring 24/7 for my wife who has Guillain Barre Syndrome. God is teaching me more fully what it means to be a loving servant and not just a dutiful husband.

  • William Alan Secrest says on

    Let me just say that Generation X pastors also like being mentored as well. I have been very blessed by a pastor that I can call on at any time. The changes in the church are happening so fast and we younger pastors need someone to talk to. My mentor was full-time for most of his ministry but now he is bi-vocational. For those of us who have always been full-time pastors, we will need seasoned bi-vocational ministers to guide us when that transition needs to take place in our own ministries.

  • Bob Hasselbring says on

    I plan to retire in 6 months when I turn 66. After 40 years of blessed pastoral ministry in the local church, I am looking forward to the next chapter of ministry freedom in the Kingdom. I’m a survivor of a heart attack in 2012 and doing well. I want to take care of my health and spend my initial months seeing my grand children, visiting different churches and sitting with my wife in worship services! I’ve already laid some ground work for pulpit supply, assisting families without pastors in funeral services and mentoring young pastors (when invited). But right now…being a greeter looks mighty inviting. These are exciting days ahead!

  • As health permits (I am now 67), I plan to work until Jesus comes—either personally (earthly death) or collectively (rapture).

  • There is really no retirement from ministry whether you are a pastor or not. Your role may change or the way you exercise your gift, but that gift is to be used until die. God gifted you and His gifts are to be used. Pew warming is not a gift nor is retirement to sucking air and eating groceries or some other self-indulgent lifestyle. Indeed, retired? Welcome to fulltime ministry.

    Although many churches think I am too old to serve as pastor or some other staff position, I use Social media as much as I can and have served in many capacities within the community. You retire to serve and I do not mean tennis. 😉

  • John W Carlton says on

    I retired from active pastorate in 2011. My intention was to find another church or do the interim. One door is specially opened as a pastor of a church, but there were so many many problems that I saw I stepped away from there.

  • Rev. Philip Hunt says on

    I serve as a part-time Pastoral Associate, visiting at the hospital, in homes and care facilities. I also serve the region (Christian Church – Disciples of Christ) as we cannot afford
    regional staff.

  • Well, I am a Boomer, a pastor and have been preparing for the day when I will leave my current pastorate to “retire”. I have this year worked on and completed CCU and IPU. This last week I joined the UnPlatform.

    Working with our church on our succession plans and waiting for God to let me know it is time to tell the church “I have taken you as far as I can take you”. Then jump with both feet into “retirement”.

    We are excited about where and how God will be using us in the future.

  • Jerry Watts says on

    Honestly as a 65-year-old, I have no desire nor intention to retire. Presently, I am a DOM (I.E. AMS, AMD, etc) but would still be open to whatever door God might open. Years ago, one of your guests made his case for ‘retirement @ 60’, I admit that I bristled at his Biblical interpretation and application (and still do) because of the difference in the Old Testament versus the New Testament models.
    Most of the guys my age who have chosen to ‘step away’ from their present ministry positions have not termed it ‘retirement’ but rather a ‘transition to a new chapter of ministry.’ I guess that will be me (at some point, but with continued good health, no time soon to be sure.) 🙂

  • After leaving our pastorate of 25 years, my wife and I founded a ministry to come alongside pastors and missionaries. Our first year, we were in 13 nations and 15 states doing just that. The following years included a college presidency and CEO of a counseling center that specialized in helping ministers. Our current responsibilities at age 73 include part time staff pastor overseeing leadership development while continuing the vision for coaching pastors online. Why retire when you can have so much fun!

  • I retired in 2012 after 45 years as a United Methodist Pastor. I am now 71. I said at the time I wasn’t retiring, I was refocusing, and that’s what I did. I had volunteered with a mission that works in Russia for many years, and took a part time staff position with them, traveling to Russia several times a year. Three of my grandchildren are in a Christian School, and after speaking in a couple of their chapels, I was asked to become part time Chaplain (2 days a week). My wife an I volunteer at a ESL ministry of our church reaching out to immigrant workers in our community. Life is full and good! The advantage of retirement is that you can more easily say yes and no to what your gifts call you to do!

  • Don Johnson says on

    I am a recently retired boomer pastor. I spent 3 years as an interim pastor and found it very rewarding. Now I’m volunteering at the county jail teaching a weekly Bible study and singing in the church choir.

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