When Boomer Pastors Retire: A Millenial Response


Earlier today on Twitter (while I was a multi-tasking Millenial mom picking up her child from preschool), I ran across this article about retiring Boomers and it’s impact on pastoral leadership in the church. It is a thought I have been having since college that, in recent years, is starting to gain some traction among the two (three – we’ll let you in on this conversation too, GenXers) affected generations.

We have a problem.

But it’s not impossible to solve.


Give it a few more years and we, rising Millenial church leaders and retiring Boomers, will merely be plugging holes on the dam with chewing gum. Instead, we need to be willing and ready to have this strategic conversation now that puts all of us around a table in our local contexts instead of later when it’s too late and we’re scrambling to put someone–anyone–in roles they are ill-equipped or unready to fill.  Side note: this is true other places as well, specifically, higher education.

In order for us to stay ahead, we’re all going to have to compromise something — be it worship styles, discipleship principles, allocation of budget, belief systems (note: not the truth of Jesus, just in the approach we all want to take, make sense?) every side is going to have to put some skin in this game in order for this to work.  Every side is going to have to bend a little.

A generation depends on it.

The reason I know this is because I’m one of those minority Millenial church leaders who are watching these clouds forming on the horizon and can’t quite do anything about it. I signed up for vocational ministry in my teens while my counterparts were studying abroad and taking internships on Wall Street.  I got married right after college and became a mom a few short years later.  I’m a minority statistic in all the categories of how “my generation” behaves.  But again, I’m more than a statistic.  All I want to do is to help point all the people to Jesus but I’m cut off at the knees with my churchless 20something friends because all they see us do is fight about insignificant stuff, meanwhile, they are volunteering their guts out for non-profits out there fighting for social justice (and sometimes even winning).  Don’t misunderstand, I very much love the Church, but it frustrates the mess out of me when I feel like it doesn’t love Millenials back.  Sure, it loves me because I lead the kids but if I didn’t lead the kids, would I (and my other Millenial-leader friends) have a place in its sanctuaries and on its teaching teams?  I sure hope so.

Hear me out, Boomers.  You are going to retire and I know you love the flocks you’ve been shepherding for all of these years.  Truth is, we love them, too.  And no, we won’t do it just like you did but we’re not going to change it all the minute you retire, either.  In fact, we’ll keep most of it — we’ll just dress it up in some skinny jeans and #hashtag it.

Moses didn’t keep all the secrets of leadership to himself and then drop it on Joshua in a 6 month span.  Joshua pops up in Exodus, long before Moses is even thinking about “retirement” (spoiler alert: he dies).  Gradually, Joshua find himself in increasingly more “high-stakes” leadership stuff while Moses is still there beside him.  Then when it was time to transition the leadership the people followed (Joshua 1:16-18).  In two short verses the allegiance shifted from one to another because for most of their wandering, they saw the burden of leadership shared between them.

A seat at the table, a chance to spread our wings, a safe place to fail and to grow, it’s all I ask for you to consider.

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