Practical Pointers

Retired leaders: A proven asset

Randall R. Childress served in four churches over forty-five years of full-time ministry, retiring after thirty years as senior minister of the Kempsville Christian Church in Virginia Beach, Virginia, United States.

It’s a scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark. The action is fast and furious. Indiana Jones is determined to reclaim the ark of the covenant. He chases a truckload of Nazis, barks orders to his friend Sallah, then declares, “I’m going after that truck!”

Sallah asks, “How?”

Jones replies, “I don’t know. I’m making this up as I go.”

While the story may be fictional, Jones’s character depicts perseverance, determination, and ingenuity, traits nearly all of us admire.

Perseverance with resilience

Perseverance must be coupled with resilience for consummate victory. Jerry Scher writes, “Resilience is defined as ‘An ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change’ and Perseverance is defined as ‘The continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition.’ . . .

“. . . And that includes the resilience and perseverance essential to managing and executing change.”1

We admire people with resilience; it is especially needed in church leadership. It’s not always easy or entertaining, but it is fulfilling. And some of the most resilient people are retired church leaders who have been around a block or two. One of the greatest blessings in ministry is working with people who voluntarily connect themselves with your ministry. If you want the blessing and are up for a challenge, find a retired church leader and ask them to help.

Along with most older ministers, I want to encourage those who are faithfully engaged in God’s work as Azariah encouraged Asa: “But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded” (2 Chron. 15:7, NIV). Overcoming adversity makes us stronger for subsequent challenges.

Giving up too soon

A 2014 poll from Lifeway Research suggests the “average pastor’s tenure in a local church is 3.6 years.” The article goes on to point out that “studies of effective leaders suggest an average tenure of 11.2 to 21.6 years.”2 Many ministers give up too soon. While church planters may not minster in one place for an extended period, both statistics and observation reveal that the most effective ministers remain at a church for a longer time. Trust, confidence, and partnership in your ministry take time to build. Some estimates are that it requires at least seven years.

Athletes undergo demanding drills, developing “muscle memory” and strengthening response times as they train. Lawyers anticipate challenging objections, preparing answers to questions before they are raised. Paul wrote, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2–4, NIV). Challenges are opportunities for sharpening skills, strengthening resolve, and sustaining perseverance. A retired leader can help guide you in these challenges; they most likely have been there themselves.

Indiana Jones was up for the challenges his adventure would throw at him. Any given church contains people at different levels of spiritual maturity. But through God’s grace, we can minister to each one. So, embrace this adventure called ministry. With more resources available today than ever before, one of your most valuable still resides with older and more experienced church leaders. Availing yourself of the perseverance and resilience of older ministers can lead to direction, wisdom, and encouragement which, in turn, can help reduce setbacks and avoid disappointments. Use us!

  1. Jerry Scher, “Resilience and Perseverance in This Time of Change,” WhatTheyTh!nk (blog), August 30, 2013, http://whattheythink.com/articles/65015-resilience-perseverance-time-change/.
  2. Franklin Dumond, “Eight Point Eight Two: How Long Do Pastors Stay in One Church?” For Every Man (blog), June 26, 2014, http://www.gbjournal.org/8-82/.
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Randall R. Childress served in four churches over forty-five years of full-time ministry, retiring after thirty years as senior minister of the Kempsville Christian Church in Virginia Beach, Virginia, United States.

May 2020

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