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 retiring from Pastoral ministry after 30 + years and four different churches. I lost my wife a while ago and am just weary. I loved pastoring, would do it again, but have lost my passion for it now. Church politics for 3 decades is more than enough for me. And Covid has made it worse. I’m ready for a change. I look forward to travelling and spending time with my family while I still have strength and health. And I’m tired of reading articles that shame pastors for leaving ministry. You don’t know their stories or burdens.

  • Let me be the first to tell you, apparently, that after 30 +yrs of pastoral ministry I’m thrilled to be done with that. Loved it, and would do it again, but not going to mentor. Not doing interim. Might fill-preach occasionally. Will finally enjoy my kids and grandchildren, and more travelling. I feel sorry for pastors who just can’t let it go. They’re probably all Type As.

  • Harold Hambley says on

    I am an 80 year old retired pastor. I retired when I was 66. I serve the Lord as a church health consultant and Intentional revitalization pastor. I just completed an Interim pastorate, helping them begin the process of revitalization and they just called a new pastor.

  • In regards to the recent article,,, 5 trends of retiring Baby Boomer pastors. What Book, Chapter and verse discusses detriment from preaching?
    Thank you.

  • Dan Birchfield says on

    At 58, I am a good number of years away from retirement. However, I would caution retiring pastors about retiring from a congregation and then remaining in the same church as “pastor emeritus” or simply staying on as a church member. I have knowledge of two churches in my area where this happened and it was a disaster. In my own experience, many years ago, a retired pastor from the community joined the church where I was formerly pastor. From day one, he began trying to run the church. He never missed a business meeting, always making motions and loudly complaining about the direction the church was going. He also openly criticized my preaching saying that my sermons “lacked any fire.” He was a nightmare and nearly split the church. He was among the most difficult church members I have ever dealt with. The deacons finally confronted him and he ended up leaving and going elsewhere.
    I have a close friend in another state who serves on staff at a church going through the same problem with a retired pastor who joined their church. I am now extremely wary of any retired pastor who starts attending the church where I am pastor. And that’s a shame. I hope my experience isn’t the norm.

  • I’m a baby boomer from the UK, and have been pastoring for 40 years in the Welsh language – the last 34 years in the same church. I plan to retire in two years. Churches here are in a different place to many in the US – usually the pastor is the only employed member of staff. My plans for the coming years are (a) to develop and deepen my ministry in Eastern Europe – at present I’m able to visit two or three times a year, but when I retire I’ll be able to commit to more time there. (b) to write and publish more – there is not much publishing in the Welsh language. (c) support some local churches who are without a pastor because of their small size – this will involve regular preaching and Bible study. However I do hope to remain in the church where I have been ministering and continue a supporting role for the new pastor.

  • I’ve always maintained that true pastors never really retire. Oh, they might “retire” in a technical sense, but most of them keep preaching and ministering as long as they are able to do so. The comments on here have reinforced that belief. I’m not knocking it; that’s exactly how I want my “retirement” to be. More power to all of you!

  • Danny Hedgepeth says on

    Thanks for post. Boomer who is enjoying this season of ministry.

    One note in blog post is incorrect and probably misprint. Believe 100k per day turning 65 per should be 10k per day. 100k per day would be 36.5 million per year, when entire US boomer population is around 72 million. 100k per day would mean entire boomer generation would turn 65 in a 2 year span.

    Again thanks for the post and ministry of

  • Andrew Maina says on

    I’m 43 years from Nairobi Kenya.I recently completed some work doing interim pastoral work for a local church.I do mentorship for young up coming pastors.I am passionate about house church planting which I want to do for the next 10 years.
    I also do mission trips in East Africa.

  • John Gibbs says on

    I turned 63 this past January and retired. I was bivocational pastor for over 20 years. In 2017 I became a hospice chaplain and my wife and I joined another church in our community. I still work as needed as a chaplain. I also was asked by my pastor to work with our senior adults. I visit them and lead a weekly Bible study and work with the Sr adult committee planning activities. This is a a volunteer staff position which I am enjoying. I also do supply preaching for the churches in our area 1 to 2 Sundays a month. I feel really blessed to be doing what I am now. Retirement is good.

  • My presbytery is predominantly Boomer pastors (at least 75% of them). I am excited and scared for what that will mean for my presbytery in the next 5-15 years. There will be a lot of shoes to fill.

  • Gordon Groseclose says on

    Thank you for these very helpful observations – important to understand that retiring boomer pastors are continuing ministry. While Interim and church consulting are key points of ministry hoping that more would consider the generational impact of their mentoring for emerging young adult GenZ in leadership development.
    My math may be off:
    74millon boomers /20 years = 3.7million/365 = 10K per day.

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