/ pastoral ministry / Kit Swartz

An Apology for Retirement


· How Not to Retire

·  Retirement: Lessons Learned (Maybe)


·  My first post by this title needed further editing and this one is the result.

·  I was ordained as a Teaching Elder and installed in RPC Oswego on December 2nd, 1980.  I retired from this work in this place on May 31st, 2020 (2Cor.11:24) after completing a teaching and preaching series through the book of Hebrews.  My last worship service concluded with preaching on, and proclaiming, the benediction of Hebrews 13:20,21.  I did not know until that evening that I was done but the Lord made it crystal clear that I was.  What a way to finish!  What a gracious providence.

·   I retired as a Ruling Elder in RPC Fulton, NY on March 18th, 2024 after a about two years laboring with others to replant this congregation.  Here also, I knew that this retirement was coming, but it came suddenly and powerfully. 

·   I may update this list after further meditation, but the present seems to be a good time to start while some things are fresh on my mind and heart.

Observations and Lessons Learned (Maybe)

·   These things are not universal truths.  They are simply testimony from my experience and, consequently, of limited and particular application.  If it fits, wear it.  If not, don’t.

·   Prepare yourself for heartbreak and grief.  Retirement from official ministry is like death.  Something you gave yourself to whole-heartedly with immense sacrifice along with great joy and deep sorrow, is gone.  Understand that you will miss the ministry more than the ministry will miss you.  You will be forgotten but not gone.  There is no blame in this.  It is the nature of things in a fallen world.  Your ministry died; no one killed it.  Joy will come in the presence of the Lord in the evening of death and in the morning of the resurrection.

·   Be prepared to realize, suddenly, that you are retired and need simply to inform your courts and congregation of the fact.  You can plan for the general time of your retirement, but the day may be difficult to predict.  Again; like death.  Sometimes you find the finish line only after you break the tape.

·   This familiar saying may apply: “You can have my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers.”  That is, when we have persevered through fire and water for many years, it may not be easy for us to let go of the ministry.  It may be necessary for the Lord to break our arms so that we drop the shepherd’s staff.  See Ezekiel 30:22 for the picture, but may this difficult providence be due to our persevering faithfulness and not because of our sins.

·   If possible, help your congregation find your successor.  Don’t leave your sheep without a shepherd.  With your Session, lead them to find the man of God’s choice, don’t drive them to the man of your choice.  But, having done so, give yourself time for an enjoyable retirement, celebrating your tenure with happy recollections and much thanksgiving to God.  Be sure to thank those who have served with you.  Let your people give you a celebration if they want to but don’t expect one.  Plan for many weeks or a few months between your retirement date and the arrival of your successor.  Your Elders can handle that interim but leaving them with an indefinite interim could be difficult for them and for the congregation.

·   If possible, don’t retire during a pandemic, serious illness or other griefs.

·   Take comfort and encouragement in the truth that Christ rules over all things for the sake of His church (Eph.1:18-23).  Know that He will use your successor, as He used you, to bring honor to Himself and blessing to His people.  Amen.

Kit Swartz    Teaching Elder Emeritus, RPC Oswego; Ruling Elder retired, RPC Fulton