They Don't Look Retired
- Normal retirement begins at age 65 or with 40 years of service
- Early retirement is available at age 62 or with 30 years of service
There are currently more than 70 retired pastors appointed to serve local churches. They are all serving less than full-time, but some aren’t serving much less. The cap comes from the Book of Discipline, and it doesn’t limit how much they work. It limits how much they can be paid.
“As long as they are making $1 less per year than our minimum salary, they are within the limit,” said Trudy McManus, clergy relations and benefits administrator.
Many pastors have had personal issues that took them into retirement, but they find they still have a lot to give the church. Rev. Bob Howard retired when he was 62. His father was ill and needed assistance, so he moved to San Diego to be with him for a couple of years. Then his brother took a turn, and Howard moved back to Missouri. Then Southwest District Superintendent Mark Statler had been in contact with him a couple of times about serving Wheaton UMC. The opportunity was still there, so Howard started serving as a pastor and has been appointed to a church ever since.
During his service in retirement, Howard took the advice of Bishop Bob Farr and went to interim pastor training in Chicago.
“It was very good training relating to going to an appointment with the intention of being there for a short time and preparing the church for the next pastor to come,” he said.
Howard has always enjoyed serving smaller, rural congregations and has appreciated the opportunity to continue to do so as a retiree.
“They are salt of the earth people and have been very welcoming to me,” he said.
Howard’s wife died suddenly in 2020. Serving as a pastor at that time helped him deal with his grief and loss.
“It was healthy for me,” he said. “It kept me grounded.”
Although serving continually as a pastor, Howard had found ways to experience life in ways he didn’t before he retired. In the summer of 2022, he took a two-month leave to serve as a mission volunteer at a camp in Alaska.
“Even as a retired pastor in a part-time appointment, you still have to take care of your soul and nurture yourself,” he said. “It’s important to do things to keep you passionate about your calling and aware of the presence of God in your life.”
That doesn’t mean his time in Alaska as a mission volunteer was a vacation. In addition to pastoral duties similar to serving a church, he also stayed busy doing things like mowing the grounds and cleaning the bathrooms.
Howard will turn 71 this year. As long as he is healthy, active and feels he has something to offer, and as long as the bishop and cabinet have an appointment for him, he will keep serving as pastor.
“Hopefully, I’ll be able to serve for a few more years and, in that time, be able to encourage some others to follow their call and replace me,” he said. “I’ve been a United Methodist since I was baptized at a week old, and that isn’t going to change. I enjoy what I do, and I’m thankful to God and the United Methodist Church for giving me an opportunity to do it.”
Rev. Steve Pinnell has a similar story. He chose to retire due to a combination of health issues and family responsibilities. It was also a good time to transition out. He was the District Superintendent of the Mark Twain District, which was divided between the Northeast and North Central districts as part of the redistricting process.
Pinnell and his wife decided to move to Chillicothe. It’s not too far away from his mother in Brookfield, and they loved the town and everything it had to offer. They bought a house there a year before retirement, so it served as a retreat for them before they moved. They got to know and love the local church.
“It has really good worship, Bible studies and music,” Pinnell said. “We had 80-some-odd churches before (as District Superintendent), but we didn’t have “a” church.”
Rev. Buck Cueni-Smith asked Pinnell out for a cup of coffee and asked him if he would be willing to take a part-time position with the church. Pinnell was excited about the opportunity.
“I love pastoral care. That’s who I am. And they were looking for someone for congregational care,” Pinnell said. “I told him I would consider it so long as I didn’t have to go to any board meetings.”
Pinnell spends a lot of time visiting people in the hospital. He also does funerals and weddings and serves communion at rural churches that are in partnership with Chillicothe. The church is very appreciative, as is Pinnell.
“I’m very fulfilled,” he said. “Serving a church in this way gives one an opportunity to refocus on why you got into ministry in the first place.”
The church isn’t the only thing that keeps him busy. He takes his mother, his wife and himself to a lot of doctor appointments.
“You find in retirement that your calendar can fill up with doctor appointments,” he said.
Rev. John Rice shares Pinnell’s love for the church at Chillicothe. He was the pastor there when he decided to retire. The time seemed right for him. His youngest child was graduating high school and would be off to college. He was 67 and was in a position where his pension and savings would be adequate, he no longer needed to work full-time and his wife was ready to retire from her job. He had no intention of seeking any kind of appointment at a local church. Moving to Columbia was an easy choice for him. His parents lived there, as well as a sister, and he had a brother in Jefferson City. It had been about 45 years since he graduated from Mizzou, but he knew he liked the town. He was driving to Columbia one day when he got a call from then Mid-State District Superintendent Sherry Habben, who wanted to talk to him about helping out with a church. He happened to be on Highway US 63, about a mile from the Conference office, so he took the next exit and met with her in person.
“It was St. Luke, and that made all of the difference,” he said.
St. Luke is a Historically Black United Methodist Church in Columbia. He talked to his wife and to his father, a retired pastor. Both encouraged him to do it, which reinforced what he was already feeling.
“I thought I could be helpful,” he said. “I thought it would be enriching to be in a different kind of ministry.”
It wasn’t Rice’s first cross-cultural experience. He had served as pastor at St. Andrew in Florissant, a racially diverse congregation, alongside Rev. Monica Jefferson, an African-American United Methodist pastor.
“While serving there, I was awakened to issues that, as a White person, I had been insulated from,” he said.
“At St. Andrew, I began to learn there is more culture here among us than the predominant culture that I had lived in most of my life. Monica schooled me. We started cross-culture workshops. It was there I found I began to be a different pastor, more socially conscious, with a different understanding of the Gospel.”
Rice was never one to plot out the course of his life. After he graduated from seminary at Illiff, he entered the United Methodist itinerate system of going to where he was sent.
“I trusted the itinerate system and thought it made sense, so I followed the path the Church laid out before me,” he said. “It’s been 40 years of discovery. Going into retirement, I thought I’d have to blaze my own trail. But once again, the Church provided a path. I feel that God is in charge of my life. If you have a sense of calling in any profession, I’m not sure you can ever say that your work is done.”
“There’s a lot in this for me. It enriches me,” he said.
He also finds it important to be there for the denomination that he loves.
“I want to help the United Methodist Church keep going,” Rice said. “These are hard times, with coming out of the pandemic and the breaking of relationships due to disaffiliations. I want to show my loyalty and support.”
In addition to his local church duties, Rice is a mentor to three other pastors, and he serves on the board of trustees of the Missouri United Methodist Foundation. He is a founding member of Race Ahead, part of Faith Voices, a disciplinary hearing panelist for Missouri Supreme Court.
“I’m still engaged,” Rice said. “I spend a lot of time talking to people in coffee shops.”
Rev. Kay Hord was already retired when she started serving churches in Missouri. She moved here to take care of her elderly mother. After he r mother passed, she started serving as a pastor in her mother’s church, Tebbets, as well as the other church on the charge, Mokane.
When she was in Dallas, Texas, Hord worked as an accountant in a church but felt called to serve as a pastor and went to seminary at Perkins School of Theology. She chose not to take the path of ordination because she liked small churches and spending time with her grandchildren. She didn’t want to itinerate, so she remained a local pastor even though she graduated seminary. She didn’t plan to return to being a pastor after she retired and moved to Missouri, but she did so to meet the need.
“These churches need pastors,” she said. “It isn’t that hard to serve as a retiree, as I can pull from my old sermons. I just need to update them a bit.”
Retirement didn’t stick for Hord’s husband, either. Now he works weekdays, and she works weekends as a part-time pastor primarily, only taking off a couple of Sundays a year. She would like to spend more time with her children, who live in Texas and Indiana, so she’s going to retire again. Although she wants to retire from being a pastor, she doesn’t plan on retiring from church.
“I’m hoping to be able to worship in Mokane and then drive over and teach Sunday school for the kids at Tebbetts,” she said.