I have 3 years left before I retire. Many people have asked me about my retirement plans. The question they ask most frequently is, “Is it true that you’re planning to leave Houston after you retire?” So although I feel it’s a little premature, let me share my plans for retirement.
According to our church bylaws, the official retirement age for pastors and deacons is 67. It’s customary that they don’t retire on their 67th birthday but at the end of that fiscal year. So my official retirement date will be August 31, 2012.
However, I got permission from our deacons to retire anytime after I turn 67, which is in October, 2011. I want this flexibility in case Pastor Sookwan Lee, whom I have been grooming as my successor, is not chosen. I want to give our congregation freedom to choose my successor, and if they choose someone else, I want to be able to retire early in case the new pastor feels uncomfortable with me around.
I will organize the search committee for my successor in the fall of 2010. My role will be limited to giving initial guidelines. Beyond that, I’ll be hands-off and all decisions and actions will be made by the committee without my involvement. The new pastor will be chosen by the spring of 2012. If Pastor Lee is chosen as my successor, I will retire at the customary retirement date. If someone else is chosen, I will retire earlier.
If Pastor Lee becomes my successor, after I retire, I will immediately sever all relationships with Seoul Baptist church and its members. I won’t attend worship services at Seoul Baptist (I’m currently considering attending the homeless church we support) or any other meetings, I won’t meet with any church members, and I won’t post on our church website.
After 6 months, I’ll start to attend our Sunday worship services and begin meeting with church members, but will not be involved in any official church functions, even saying grace before meals at official gatherings.
After another 6 months, if everything goes well and the church is peaceful, then I may get involved in church ministry, but only as much as the new pastor requests.
I devised this plan because I’ve seen many churches where retired pastors exert influence on church members, both overt and covert, giving trouble to their successors. It requires drastic measures like this to help church members feel comfortable with their new pastor and accept him as their leader.
During the year after my retirement, I may decide to move if I feel that my presence in Houston makes the new pastor uncomfortable and becomes a stumbling block to his ministry.
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