In the last few months, we have had the chance to engage in several long conversations with pastors who have recently retired from ministry.
All of them have regrets.
To be sure, each of them were glad they had chosen ministry as their vocation. To a person they had been “successful” by any standard. They had – at least at times – led growing and healthy churches. They held responsible positions in their respective denominations and local associations. They were respected in their communities, regarded as faithful and talented ministers. They had finished well.
But they all wished they could do a few things differently.
We offer three of these things for you to consider. If you are in active ministry, you may want to create time and space to consider whether these would be things you would regret if you were to retire today. And, if so, to make plans as to how to tackle them!
- They regret not resting more. Pastors work hard. The nature of the ministry is that nothing is ever ‘finished’ and people drawn to the helping professions want to help! But these pastors wished they had taken more ‘sabbath’ time. Not just a day off a week, though they cited that discipline as important. Several mentioned wishing they had scheduled regular (perhaps monthly) days of prayer, reflection, and thoughtful planning. They wished they had taken all of their allotted vacation in order to rest and recharge. They wished they had carved out more time for the spiritual disciplines and personal spiritual growth. Interestingly, none said “I didn’t work hard enough”!
- They regret not allowing themselves to be interrupted more. This one was interesting. Many pastors, of necessity, schedule themselves tightly. But there are always unplanned demands, from crises real or imagined to folks who just drop by, to the congregant facing a crisis of faith and wanting to ask tough questions to the request to stop by the church preschool ‘just for a few minutes’. Our recently retired pastors said that, upon reflection, some of their most joyful and fulfilling moments were in these unplanned times when they could be a pastor and spiritual guide, and not just a CEO.
- They regret not investing more in their own leadership capacity. From day one, the pastor’s to-do list is ever-growing and never completed. While there are always opportunities for further education and study, it can feel hard to justify taking the time away from day to day ministry. To a person, the pastors with whom we spoke said they wished they had taken more time to invest in their own growth and development as a leader, mastering and learning about the things they weren’t taught in seminary such as organizational leadership, conflict navigation, leadership selection and development, and strategic planning. One of the pastors cited Billy Graham’s famous quote “I wish I had studied more and preached less”. “If that was true for him”, this pastor said, “how much more for me!”. These pastors weren’t talking so much about biblical or theological study as the study of leadership principles relevant for pastors.
How about you? Do any of these regrets ring true for you?
If so, the good news is that there are options for you to address any of them!
At Transforming Church and TAG Consulting, we are concerned with all of them but have a particular passion for helping spiritual leaders grow and develop as leaders and create a healthy leadership culture in their churches. One of the best ways to tackle this is through a ministry leadership coach. TC’s coaches are experienced practitioners and seasoned coaches, trusted advisors who can help you plan a calling that leaves no room for regrets. Check out the short video below to hear how a ministry coach could serve you.