When I speak in churches across the country, I often hear “former pastor” stories, or stories about struggles that involve a former pastor. What is this “former pastor problem”? Simply put, it refers to pastors who hang around after they are no longer employed by a congregation—and meddle.
For the former pastor, it comes down to being where you aren’t supposed to be, expressing opinions about things that no longer have your name on them and assuming an authority that you don’t or shouldn’t have. Perhaps the former pastor decides (or is pressed by misguided parishioners) to intrude at pastoral moments, times of personal crisis, death or birth. Or perhaps the former pastor tries to influence the search process for his or her successor. Often the misbehavior involves suggestive but negative messages dropped in the hearing of a congregant regarding the current direction of the church or its present leadership. And almost always it happens with “good intentions.”
Anthony B. Robinson is president of Seattle-based Congregational Leadership Northwest and coauthor, with Robert W. Wall, of Called to Lead: Paul’s Letters to Timothy for a New Day (forthcoming from Eerdmans).