I’ve had the privilege of pastoring three wonderful churches, and I still visit them on rare occasions to preach, perform weddings and funerals, or just to worship while in town. A few months ago I preached at one of those churches and told them I felt like a “grandpastor.” Since grandparents enjoy all of the benefits of parenting, without any of the responsibilities, this term seemed to fit our new relationship.
Grandpastoring is the ultimate payoff for pastors who finish strong, and I’m enjoying it immensely. Let me make four suggestions on how to become a good grandpastor.
Stop Pastoring Them
Parenting and pastoring have two things in common: Both jobs are really hard; and I have retired from both. Some of you winced at the thought of retiring from parenting. Others smiled. Although we will never stop being parents, Janet and I have formally stopped parenting because we don’t think parenting adults is healthy for them or us.
Some pastors hang on too long to their churches after they leave them, which is not healthy for those members or for you. Good grandpastors help these former members by refusing to lead them from the shadows while their current pastor stands helplessly in yours.
Keep Encouraging Them
On special occasions, it is appropriate to send a note of consolation or congratulations to both former members and current pastors. My childhood pastor encouraged me recently with this email:
“Mark, You are a good writer so keep your pen sharp and help these young pastors. I am proud of you. PWP”
The Apostle Paul often used his pen to encourage former congregations:
As you know, like a father with his own children, we encouraged, comforted, and implored each one of you to walk worthy of God, who calls you into His own kingdom and glory (1 Thessalonians 2:11-12 HCSB).
Live Within Your Legacy
Sometimes former members ask me if they can still call me “pastor.” I always say “yes” because I will always be a pastor to them. Paul enjoyed long, healthy grandpastor-esque relationships with churches in Philippi, Ephesus, Rome, and Thessalonica.
I give thanks to my God for every remembrance of you, always praying with joy for all of you in my every prayer (Philippians 1:3-4 HCSB).
A good grandpastor celebrates cherished memories with his former faith families, but refuses to let those memories rob people of new ones being made under a new pastor’s watch. You may be some people’s favorite pastor, but you won’t be anybody’s only pastor.
Support the Current Pastor
Even though my voice is rarely heard in my former pulpits, it still holds weight in some of the pews. I aspire to leverage whatever influence I still have toward the success of my successors. These pastors will enjoy the benefit of the doubt from me, as I did from several of those I followed. If they blow their assignments, the Lord and His Bride will hold them accountable, not you.
So when you get the opportunity to serve a church you no longer lead, do it with the enthusiasm of a grandparent. If anyone throws a fit, just give them right back to their pastor.