Common Financial Goals of Retiring Pastors

About three to five years prior to a pastor retiring, he usually starts thinking about what he wants to get completed before he walks out of the office on his very last day. Surprisingly enough finances tend to come into focus both personally and for the church. Here are the four major conversations I have found myself having as pastors contemplate a financial succession plan.

  1. Often they desire to raise money one last time for a major building or renovation project. Leaning on their credibility to set the church up for a large scale capital campaign that is ready to complete the previously created master plan.
  1. Many desire to focus on retiring church debt. Pastors would love to see their buildings in great shape and the church 100% debt free.
  1. Some bold pastors are willing to make hard calls to get the budget into shape. This could involve sunsetting expensive yet underproducing ministries or releasing staff members that could benefit from a new ministry placement.
  1. All can be concerned about their personal finances, but some are really concerned. They actually need the church’s support long after their retirement date.

Each of these decisions is a heavy weight in and of itself. All of them can be swirling around in a lead pastor’s head at the same time. The best advice I can give is to start thinking about these decisions much earlier than most do. Five years is too late. Moving big financial rocks takes time. You can do it, but it typically does not happen fast. I have even found lay leadership to understand the critical opportunity in front of them. Getting these kinds of conversations moving forward is typically easier and more enjoyable than most pastors think.

So here are some thoughts to help you move forward.

  1. Every key staff position needs a succession plan. Whether it is a pending retirement or ministry relocation. Staff positions are stewarded briefly by a person before passing the baton. Live as if we are always handing our ministries off never letting them get in a state of disarray. 
  1. Always have a ten year dream supported by a five year plan. This keeps your finances focused and moving forward. It will also keep your staff, calendar, budget, buildings, and debt needs in proper sequence. With this type of clarity the answer to the question “what’s next” is always right in front of you and your leaders.
  1. You will not want to be scrambling to accomplish major initiatives in your final few years. This can be very stressful for you and the church. Expect an energy and vision drain to occur personally as God prepares you for the next stage in your life. Living under personal financial stress preparing for retirement while trying to tackle major projects will suck the life out of you. You have worked too hard for too many years to put this kind of pressure on yourself.
  1. Seek the guidance of a Certified Financial Planner immediately. Every pastor regardless of age needs a financial coach to help prepare them for retirement. People are living longer, retiring is becoming more expensive, and health care costs are out of control. Please do not view a Financial Planner as an unnecessary expense. Our family has regularly met with one since I was in my 30’s. The right planner will save you emotional stress while increasing your net worth.

Retirement is ahead for everyone. It is never too early to start planning. Your church will greatly appreciate your thoughtful leadership. Your legacy will multiply right before your eyes. Be bold and courageously start each of these conversations today. Go unleash giving!

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