Guidelines for Retiring Pastors Adopted

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As baby-boomer pastors retire, many are opting to remain in the community of the congregation they formerly served. So Synod 2009 adopted guidelines to help retiring pastors and their congregations define their future relationship.

The guidelines state that pastors and church councils should “become informed of the prevalence and types of problems that can arise when a former pastor does remain [in the congregation].”

Those problems can include

  • undefined boundaries between the retiring pastor and parishioners.
  • pastor candidates being leery of a call to that congregation.
  • difficulty for the new pastor in defining his or her place, because that place is still occupied by the former pastor.

To avoid these problems, the guidelines advise pastors and councils to “view the decision [of whether the retiring pastor should stay] as having weight similar to that of the decision to originally call the pastor to this church.”

If the former pastor does remain, the guidelines state that the church should develop a written agreement to ensure that appropriate boundaries are understood by all involved.

The CRC Office of Pastor-Church Relations developed the guidelines at the request of Synod 2007. That office can be contacted at 616-224-0837 for sample agreements and other resources.

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About the Author

Roxanne VanFarowe is a freelance writer who lives in the woods with her artist husband James and their five children in Hillsborough, North Carolina. They are members of Blacknall Presbyterian Church in Durham.