Posted tagged ‘retired minister’

The Strange Place Called “Retired Pastor”

September 5, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                       September 5, 2016

 

My life has been filled with transitions, as has yours! Transitioning from diapers to diaper-less, going from crawling to walking, from pre-school to kindergarten, elementary to junior high. There was transitioning from not shaving to imagined shaving (Thinking I saw a hair on my chin and needed to shave!) to shaving; and going from dating Carol to being seriously in love with Carol to marrying Carol.

You get the idea! Life is transitory in nature! We have to continually adjust to changes around us and in us.

Eight months ago I retired as a church pastor after thirty-six and a half years in the ministry. I was ready! I had lost my edge! I was tired of the drama, the weekly tasks, and even the distance that the position was creating between my Creator and myself. So I announced almost three months in advance that I was retiring at the end of December.

Retirement has come with its benefits. Carol says that I am a more relaxed now, perhaps easier to live with. I’m home evenings. We are able to share more dinners together than apart. I’ve had more time to read and write. The lawn looks better! There has been more nights when I’ve been able to sit on the couch with the grandkids watching TV like a kid. (Carol was more amused at me the other night as I sat there watching Shrek 2 with them. I laughed like a kid, because in those moments I was!)

But retirement has also come with its challenges. Being a retired pastor is a strange place to be in. For sixty percent of my life I had been an actively employed pastor. It had become as natural to me as throwing right-handed. Transitioning from that has been one of the hardest changes in my life.

Why is that? Because a pastor is relationally wired. Pastoring is not like a faucet that you can turn on and off at a turn of the wrist. Right now two people who are dear to me are dealing with illnesses that are most likely terminal. Not being their pastor any longer puts me in that strange place of trying to be redefined. Who am I now? A friend? I’m okay with that, but who am I to them? They still refer to be as Pastor Bill.

As pastors we have a Code of Ethics that we commit to follow. Much of it is written with the understanding that it is difficult for people to see someone who has been their pastor as now being their former pastor. Therefore the former pastor needs to keep that distance from those he/she has been the pastor to. It has wisdom in it. If the former pastor still keeps popping up those he pastored will keep reinserting him into his former role. If a church was like a car transmission it would be a car with transmission trouble, having trouble shifting from one gear to another. For the congregation there would be great difficulty in being able to shift from one pastor to the next.

My son-in-law has encountered some similar dynamics in his dental practice. He and my daughter bought the practice from a retiring dentist last fall. Several times he has encountered those words: “Dr. So-and-So didn’t do it that way!”

It is hard for people to transition from one trusted professional to the next. Dentists, doctors, barbers, and especially pastors. The pastor has been there for the crises, the deaths and the births. He has been the confidant and the encourager.

And now he is retired!

This strange new place I’m in has been populated with new adventures, but also deeply-rooted problems that I’ve stubbed my toe on. As time has gone on, and as my former church has gotten closer to calling the next person to come and be the pastor, I’ve become more distant from those I used to pastor. That isn’t a good thing, but a necessary thing.

The small church, a forty-five minute drive away from town, has become my unofficial “pastoring outlet.” I get to preach, pray for, and offer encouragement like I had been doing. I’m like an old dog who gets taken out to the woods and allowed to run around a bit to keep me moving.

As I figure out this new place I’m in there will be moments of celebration and times of depression. I look behind me at the years of footprints and look ahead at a different terrain that requires a change in footwear.

 

Retiring or Being Reconditioned?

October 16, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                          October 16, 2015

                                               

On December 31 I will retire from full-time ministry. Yesterday I was at a retirement seminar put on by our denomination’s pension plan. So many questions…what if’s…and shall be’s!

I’m getting a lot of questions like “Retiring already?” and “What are you going to do?” I also gets comments and insinuations that pastors have a lifetime calling and, therefore, I can’t retire.

I agree with the lifetime calling aspect. I’m simply retiring as the pastor of a church where I have been for the past sixteen plus years. I’m still a pastor, I just won’t get paid!

Wednesday night I met with a young lady…who is suddenly fifty-five, who was in the youth group I led back in the late seventies. We talked for three hours and I was blessed to hear about her continuing spiritual journey. In many ways…in those three hours…I was her youth pastor again. In some ways I have been her pastor/encourager/mentor for about four decades.

Through social media I’m still a pastor in undefined ways for numerous people who have been a part of my life in some way over the past forty years. I offer encouragement to a woman who was a part of the first youth group I led back in Marseilles, Illinois. She is waging a courageous battle against cancer.

This past summer I invited young ladies I had coached in basketball at Liberty High School over a five year span to come over a Sunday night cook-out. The igniting fuse for that event was the death of a couple of months before that of a young lady I had coached, and who was their teammate. Even though I am “Coach Wolfe” to these young ladies I was a little bit their pastor that night…as we grieved…as we laughed…as we celebrated friendships and shared experiences.

I could go on and on, but my point is that retiring as the pastor of a church doesn’t mean that I am retiring from being a pastor. There is a huge difference. It means that I won’t be on a schedule to “to receive a word from the Lord” each week for the next Sunday’s sermon, but it doesn’t mean that I won’t receive a word from the Lord.

It means that I no longer will be pushed to get over to see one of the seniors who is in poor health, but it does mean that I will go see a senior friend who is in poor health because I love him dearly.

It means I won’t feel the urgency to spend time in the Word, but it does mean that I will spend time in the Word because I have a desire to be enriched and spiritual nourished.

It means that I won’t have to write a sermon each week, but I’ll not stop writing. Perhaps…cross my heart and hope to die, stick a needle in my eye…perhaps I’ll be able to have a greater impact through written words more than spoken words. The power of a “shared word” can have a ripple effect.

So I’m moving out of a role that has certain job description responsibilities and into a similar role that will become clearer as I travel on the road. I’m like my old softball glove that I’ve had since 1979. Carol gave it to me as a birthday present that year…even before we were married! I used that glove again this past summer as a part of our church softball team. It still catches, but has a couple of broken strings and is looking…”weathered!” It still catches, if the softball hits in certain spots, but just needs a little reconditioning to be used in more effective ways.

That’s me! I’m like an ole’ softball glove with a couple of broken strings just in need of some reconditioning!