What Should a Pastor Consider Before Retiring?

Editors’ note: 

For more reading on long-term faithfulness in ministry with practical wisdom from veteran pastors, see Faithful Endurance: The Joy of Shepherding People for a Lifetime from The Gospel Coalition.

In this video, Don Carson reflects on retirement and what it means for the pastor.


The following is a lightly edited transcript provided by a transcription service. Please check video before quoting.

 How old you are, your energy levels, moral considerations, the advice of valued and cherished friends, whether you have got to the place where you can safely leave the care of the church in the hands of an associate or a good group of elders who will make wise choices for the next stage. Occasionally you’ll find a gifted minister who leaves suddenly without such care and sometimes the transition becomes really difficult. I would have argued in most such cases that they should have taken a little longer to lay the groundwork and make provision for a successor and so I think that would usually run a little more smoothly.

And there are other considerations. Occasionally a person leaves because he feels called to something else, and that’s really what happened in my own case. It was leaving the primary ministry of the local church to train people for the local church; it wasn’t that I was leaving to become a ditch digger in Nebraska or something. It was a small shift of primary means of employment, but it wasn’t a shift away from my primary calling as a pastor of the people of God. So that’s pretty personal too. That was peculiar to the way the Lord was providentially leading in my own life.

There can be other factors. Occasionally you’ll have an ill spouse. I’ve known several really good men who have stepped away from the ministry because their wives are entering more advanced stages of Alzheimer’s, and they just have to devote more time and energy to take care of them, and that’s a valid reason for stepping aside. So one can multiply things of that sort, they’re not classifiable particularly, they’re just part of the hard providences of life sometimes.