John Wimberly, the Head of Staff at Western, is demographically at the beginning of the Baby Boomers. He’s retiring in a few years, which puts our church into an utter panic every time they think about it. But he hasn’t hidden the fact that he’ll be moving on. He’s honest about it. He has been preparing himself as well as the congregation for the eventuality.
His looming retirement is a reminder for me that the church-at-large has quite a number of boomers who are leaving. And I wonder what it will mean for us. Here are a few possible scenarios:
They will hang on to their jobs. Let’s face it, if a person is drawing social security, plus retirement income, plus a full-time salary–that combination makes for decent income. Especially for a group of people who haven’t been getting a strong income most of their lives. Plus, sixty-five is not what it used to be. Most retiring people are in amazing shape. I wouldn’t blame people for hanging around. So, how will that affect our churches?
Retirees could bring down our salary range. If a person over sixty-five decides to stay in the profession I hope that (s)he won’t ask for a bargain basement salary. It may seem like the person would be helping the church, but actually, I think it would hurt young pastors (and congregations) in the long run. Retired pastors may not need the money, but young pastors do. And, it’s really hard to need the money when you’re following a pastor who didn’t need the money. A church can begin to have a difficult time understanding just how much it costs to live in their community.
Retirees will be entering seminary. For active people, retirement may be a chance for them to do the things they always wished they could do. And, so many people wish they could have been a pastor. If this happens, how will our denominations respond?
We’ll be left with more empty pulpits. Right now, we have a huge amount of churches without pastors. The crisis is taking place in rural areas of the country. But, we could have a wide-spread problem with empty pulpits. Of course, if we could hang on just a bit, the millennials (people under 25 who represent a much larger demographic than the Boomers) are coming up.
Retirees could take over our governing bodies. Let’s face it. Most of our denominational structures are run by retirees. The meetings are at times when working people can’t attend. There’s never any childcare. But could the retired ratio increase more with the Boomers retiring?
What are your predictions? What do you think we could do to plan for the wave?