One in four pastors plan to vocationally retire by 2030, according to newly released research from the Barna Group. Yet many pastors suffer from a lack of financial preparedness as they enter the latter stages of their ministry.
In fact, nearly half of pastors admit that they are concerned about their financial security, with one-third having less than $100,000 saved at retirement age. If pastors are to both serve well and finish well, it is essential that they begin prioritizing their financial futures sooner rather than later.
Those who follow the call to pastoral ministry do so in service to the Lord and His people, but they should not forget the needs of themselves and their families.
To prepare for their present and future, pastors must first establish a budget that clearly identifies their basic needs, then establish small, manageable steps that keep them anchored to this goal and ensure they save money. For instance, they should work with their church to prioritize compensation plans that allow them to save and, ideally, invest into their retirement account the same amount as one would tithe – 10% or more – as part of their yearly salary.
Along with these contributions, securing a strong financial future requires a commitment to staying the course. Playing the long game – making small sacrifices in the present with the knowledge that these changes will pay off in the future – requires discipline, but is necessary for securing financial freedom.
In addition to the slow and steady path to financial security, a healthy financial life includes resilience — being prepared in the event of an unforeseen tragedy, such as an accident, unemployment, or sudden illness.
Many pastors would give the shirt off their backs or shoes off their feet to help minister to their community. They are generous people who love to serve, and sacrifice is certainly the name of the game. I witnessed this with my family, growing up on the mission field. Unfortunately, I have also witnessed many times the devastating impact that a lack of financial preparedness can have on the lives of pastors, their families, and the churches they serve.
Solomon notes in Proverbs the wisdom of the ant, which gathers food in the harvest from provisions made during the summer — the earning years. While it’s easy to make money an idol, a proper biblical perspective toward money will prepare the wise pastor for the future.
GuideStone® works with Southern Baptist churches to help ensure their pastors have best-in-class retirement products, like our Church Retirement Plan, which is open to every employee who receives W-2 taxable income from a Southern Baptist church, church-related school, or association. Our team knows churches — and many, like me, grew up in pastors’ homes. All of us are active in our own churches and love and believe in the church and those who serve it.
When the time comes, pastors should feel they are able to truly finish well. This means not just getting to retirement but getting through retirement with the resources and means to continue serving as the Lord leads. It means having the freedom and flexibility to pursue unique opportunities they may feel called to by the Lord in their post-vocational years.
Whether retirement is decades away or fast approaching, the best time for pastors to build financial well-being and resilience is today. Neither the leader — nor his family — can afford for it to wait.