Pastor retire
Why is it difficult for some pastors to simply retire? (Lightstock)

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When I read a story on how difficult it is for writers, artists, and rock stars to retire (May 20th in the U.K.'s Telegraph) by critic Neil McCormick, I immediately thought of pastors and ministry leaders.

Granted, they're not famous writers or rock stars (at least most of them) but generally speaking, they don't lead normal working lives. While they work very hard, they don't have typical 8 to 5 jobs, don't slave at a desk, can determine their own schedule, can be intensively creative, and are passionate about their work.

Not a bad life—which makes retirement quite difficult. Pastors and leaders—don't be offended, but while your job can be very challenging, you're not really retiring from a job you hate.

But back to McCormick's post. Read the excerpt below and you'll understand why pastors and ministry leaders (like novelist Philip Roth he's writing about) have difficulty retiring.  Here's the important section:

"Philip Roth has announced his retirement. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say he has reiterated his retirement. Two years after the publication of his 2010 novel Nemesis, Roth declared that it would be his last. Now it seems he has broken his self-imposed silence to affirm his self-imposed silence, giving a televised interview to insist that he is not going to give any more interviews, or appear on television. At 81, Roth is shuffling very slowly off the world's stage, taking curtain calls. This is the showbiz way, in which retirement is a very flexible concept.

For most people, retirement involves giving up the day job to potter around doing stuff you always wanted to do, like write, paint, perhaps pluck a musical instrument. But what if those very things are your occupation? It can be hard to take seriously pronouncements of retirement by artists, novelists, musicians, actors and other creative types.

Perhaps because we have never taken seriously the idea that they had a proper job in the first place. These are people who make their living indulging in what everyone else considers leisure pursuits. What are they going to do with their spare time? Take up a hobby?"

So next time you get frustrated because a pastor or ministry leader won't quietly step into the shadows, this will give you some insight.

What are the biggest reasons you've encountered that make church and ministry succession so challenging?

Phil Cooke, Ph.D., is a filmmaker, media consultant and co-founder of Cooke Pictures in Los Angeles. Find out more at

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