More Than Money
How Did I Get Here So Quickly?
By Glenn Poston
The last thing on my mind when I began pastoring 42 years ago was setting aside money for retirement. I was 21 years old with a wife and new baby when a wonderful, little church called me to become its pastor. It was a loving church, and the people became family to us. I was the first full-time pastor, so it was a step of faith for them to pay $75 a week and provide a small parsonage. (That was about what I was making at my part-time job during my last semester at Welch College.)
I reasoned that God had called me, and He would provide. He did; but I must admit, had it not been for my wife’s parents and a special couple in the church who took us under their wings, we might have starved. It also helped that the kind owner of the little grocery store across the street from the church somehow detected my plight and voluntarily extended a running account for those times when we didn’t have money for baby formula and essentials like bread and milk.
In those days, I thought I had many years to worry about retirement. I thought, “Once school is behind me, and my church grows and can pay more, then I will start saving for retirement.”
Our first son was barely out of diapers when my wife announced we were going to have a second child. While happy about our growing family, we wondered how we could afford two children. Again, I reasoned, “God will provide.” But I must tell you that every time we thought we were “getting ahead,” something came along that prevented us from saving for retirement. Three things often get forgotten in a pastor’s pay package—taxes, health insurance, and retirement!
I learned a great deal about prayer and trusting the Lord during those early days of ministry. God was good, and I have no complaints about how churches provided for us. My favorite line about my salary is, “My church pays me more than I’m worth…I just can’t live on what I’m worth.”
I really don’t remember when we began saving for retirement. The biggest mistake I made was not starting soon enough, because the greatest friend of retirement is time. If you start early and make consistent contributions, you will be surprised how money accumulates. Even if you can’t put much aside, a small but consistent amount over a long period of time really adds up. Proverbs 13:11 reminds us that whoever seeks to get rich quickly will see it dwindle quickly, but whoever gathers little by little will see great increase.
Though I hope to continue in ministry for several years, I am nearing retirement age. I often wonder how I arrived here so quickly. It seems like only yesterday I began this journey with my young wife. We have discovered two essential elements necessary for retirement: age and money. Age will come whether we plan or not, but a comfortable retirement only comes through careful planning and putting aside funds.
While it may be true that churches should do more to help with the pastor’s retirement, the fact remains that every minister must take charge of his own retirement.