Here’s one for the disturbing news file.
A friend, who’s on the verge of retirement, just came back from a denominationally-sponsored retirement planning meeting, with two interesting pieces of information.
(1) There are incentives for putting off retirement. Big incentives. For every year that a minister puts off retirement, he or she gets a 5% increase in pension.
(2) It was communicated by those leading this meeting that it’s good for the denomination to do this, because older ministers are so much better than the young ones who are coming up.
The latter was conveyed, not over coffee, but in a seminar.
Now… far be it for me to cause intergenerational tension. I mean it. I try to build bridges. I appreciate the wisdom that can come from experience. I know that retiring pastors have seen a huge decrease in their portfolios, and many of them who would like to retire, simply cannot do it. I understand this. I know people who have been counting down for retirement for years, and now they’re stuck resetting the clock.
Yet, in light of the economic crisis, in light of the many people who have to keep working and do not have the luxury to retire and who are already filling the pulpits that our seminary grads would normally be moving into, do we really need to be giving incentives for people to hang on longer?
And, really. Are ministers who are past retirement age better than young pastors? We need to think long and hard about this one, because we are driving off our young pastors because we don’t have jobs for them. Conversely, we are hoping that our older ministers, who only have a few post-retirement years left, to hang on. How is that good for our denomination?
Let’s be clear. Post-retirement-age ministers are not better for our churches than young pastors. They are just much better for our pension funds. It’s much better for the board to have that big, fat, premium from the pastor who’s at the end of his or her career, and to cut down the pay-out by a couple of years, than to be collecting the measly percentage that young pastors can provide.
While the whole business world is dealing with job shortages by trying to give incentives for retirement-age employees to leave, we are giving incentives for them to stay.
Could we please stop with the ageism? Could we please begin to appreciate the innovation, energy, and vision that young clergy can bring to a congregation?
Research shows that the age of a congregation usually reflects the age of the pastor. It is the case in our denomination. So… is it the smartest thing to keep giving incentives to post-retirement ministers?
The photo is by burlap jacket