January 26, 2017
One of my goals for 2016 was: Develop a retirement/succession plan that will benefit Elmhurst Christian Reformed Church and honor my family.
I worked on that goal through prayer, reading, reflection and in conversations with Becky and others. We reached a conclusion late in 2016 that I have been asked to communicate more broadly.
I will be retiring from full-time pastoral ministry in May of 2017. More specifically, my last Sunday at ECRC will be May 21.
My discernment process included conversations with a therapist/professional coach. We were talking about numerous issues in my life including my wrestling with when to retire. My original plan was May of 2018. He asked a thought provoking question, “What are you waiting for?” We talked more and we wondered together about May of 2017. When I considered that possibility and decided that was possible, I literally felt a gigantic weight lift from my shoulders. I was totally unaware of the emotional and spiritual burden I was carrying.
I have been involved in full-time pastoral ministry for 43 years. God has provided me with a variety of ministry opportunities that have challenged me and have given me an opportunity to utilize my gifts. I have been blessed with mentors who have poured their wisdom into my life. Mentors who have been clergy, and mentors who have been in other professions. I have served in wonderful ministry settings; campus ministry at my alma mater, Hope College, as an Associate Pastor at Christ Church of Oak Brook and as Lead Pastor at Christ Community, Faith Reformed Traverse City and Elmhurst Christian Reformed Church.
I am a workaholic and ministry provides no end of opportunities to be engaged. The work of a pastor is never done. A pastor is always on call. Much of what we do exacts a heavy emotional, as well as spiritual toll. Research shows that eventually it weighs you down, if you don’t do appropriate self-care. But even with appropriate self-care, 43 years is a long time.
Whenever someone asks us the question, “What are you doing this weekend?” we sometimes respond, “What’s a weekend?” Pastors don’t have weekends. We have somewhat flexible schedules during the week, but when most people are free, including your children, we always have a Sunday morning responsibility. It goes with the calling and it has been rewarding, but at this stage of my life, one way to honor my family is to be more available to them physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Elmhurst Christian Reformed Church has all the signs of vitality. Our ministries are healthy and teeming with participation at every level. We are sound financially. We continue to impact our community and the world. It is not a perfect place. We have some issues that still need to be addressed, but this is a good place with good people.
However, I feel that it is the right time for me to step aside while the church is healthy. Healthy churches attract the best candidates. It is my opinion that a younger pastor would be appropriate to help ECRC move to the next level of ministry, whatever God guides that to be.
As I have shared this news with people, some ask, “What are you going to do next?” I have some ideas, but no specific plans. I am confident in the fact that God will place me in a place where I can use the talents, gifts and experience I have accumulated.
A few years ago, Mark Dykema was engaged in a wicked war with cancer. He fought valiantly, but it was clear that the time for him to graduate to heaven was near. One of Mark’s hopes was that he could witness his youngest child making her profession of faith in one of our worship services. It was clear that he wasn’t going to be with us that long, so we arranged for his daughter to make her profession of faith in his hospital room. We gathered there with family and friends. Mark hadn’t said anything all day and it wasn’t clear to us whether he was aware of what was happening. I stayed and talked with people for quite a while and then told them I had to leave. Much to the shock and surprise of everyone, in a strong and clear loud voice Mark said, “Rev’s Out!” Then he fell silent.