Category Archives: Healthy Good Byes

On Leaving Well (8)


Retiring well allows the fruits of our previous labors to continue to bear fruit but sets us free to respond to the future. My guess is that one of the reasons that retiring clergy unintentionally create problems for the church that they left is that they fail to separate who they are from the church that they serve. Our identity as someone called by God is still in effect but it is separate from the church we serve. So a major step inĀ Leaving Well is to discern where God is calling us in retirement.

As I mentioned in the last blog, there are a variety of possibilities to which clergy may be called in retirement. For our own sense of identity, it is important to discern what that call is for us.


Every time Israel made a significant change in their life as a people, they began by remembering where God had been in their past. For example, they were always recalling how God had led them across the Reed Sea, conquered this enemy, or brought them back from exile. This was not a case of nostalgia. It was by remembering God’s faithfulness in the past that they gained courage to face the unknown future.

Whether with a spiritual counselor, through meditative prayer, or journaling, there is value for a retiring pastor to reflect on their journey and how God was present even in the dark or uncertain events of their past. As you are recalling that journey, look also for clues as to possibilities for the future.


With that as a foundation, begin to dream of possibilities for the future. Recognizing your age, current energy level, and interests, what might provide you with a deep sense of fulfillment in the coming years. It does not have to be some great project from the world’s perspective. It may be a more private endeavor, or a family oriented focus. What might you devote yourself to over the next several years that would feel like a satisfying endeavor?

One area that I have found fulfilling is making use of your past experience to be supportive of currently active clergy. You know from your own experience that the work of ministry can be a lonely work. You could ease that loneliness in the life of another clergy.


When you have a focus on the future, it is much easier to not be tempted to reach back into past commitments. Even when people tempt you to become reinvolved in your recent church, you have a story to tell them about what God is asking of you today.