Young clergy gather and look forward to retirement at revitup!

revitupATLANTA, Ga — On October 28th, 150 young United Methodist clergy and a handful of clergy spouses from across the United States gathered in Atlanta for revitup!, a three-day conference hosted by the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits.

“Usually when we put events together, it’s only pastors closer to retirement who show up. We are so glad that you are here” announced Renee Smith-Edmondson, Manager of Administration and Events for the GBP&HB, at the opening session. Her goal for the event, “that young clergy will develop a better understanding of their financial well-being and take practical tools home to help sustain a lifetime in ministry”

“We don’t want them to go twenty years down the road and then say, ‘I wish I had saved for retirement,’” offered Smith-Edmondson afterwards.

Several young clergy latched onto this goal and talked about its success.

Kelsey Johnson, an elder serving Cahaba Heights UMC in Birmingham, Alabama reflected on the experience, “I came because I didn’t understand the statements that I get in the mail from the board. Now I understand my benefits and have a plan for my financial future. I guess I am a success story for this conference.”

“I’m totally glad I went because we learned things here that weren’t on my radar and I need them to be on my radar,” said Molly Fraser from Light of the Hill UMC in Puyallup, WA.

In addition to workshops, participants were offered the opportunity to sign up for one-on-one consultations with professionals about financial planning, taxes, health benefits or pastoral care. Within a few hours, all of the available slots were taken. More were created and filled immediately.

A consistent question from interviewed participants was why they haven’t learned about benefits, pension and clergy taxes from their Annual Conference during the ordination process. Zack Landis, associate pastor at First UMC of Decatur, TX, was grateful for the conference. “It was extremely helpful for someone to explain how clergy taxes are different and offer clear answers to our questions. Nobody on the conference level tells us how to do that. Or if they do, I don’t know about it.”

 Photo courtesy the General Board of Pensions and Health Benefits

Photo courtesy the General Board of Pensions and Health Benefits

Several General Board members seemed pleasantly surprised by the event’s turnout. Pensions and Health Benefits aren’t usually a big draw for young people. Anne Green plans meetings and events for the GBP&HB. She was worried that participation would be mostly local and therefore limited in scope, but the event boasted participants from more than 39 Annual Conferences.

revitup!’s success hinged, at least in part, to the support of Annual Conferences like the North Texas, Western Pennsylvania and Pacific North West which actively encouraged young clergy to attend by offering full or part scholarships.

The Mississippi Annual Conference brought a bus of eighteen people.

For other participants, the appeal rested more in the opportunity to be with young clergy than the subject matter itself. Matthew Johnson from Holy Covenant UMC in Chicago, IL “came mostly to network with other young clergy…younger clergy oftentimes feel isolated and being with others gives us the chance to connect and be invigorated by one another’s ideas.”

The event offered more than just workshops on financial matters. There were daily worship services, massage chairs available to help clergy relax and time in the evenings intentionally left free for clergy to renew themselves or take care of business back home.

revitup! represents the first effort by the GBP&HB to put together a young clergy event. Success for Renee Smith-Edmondson is about more than positive reviews. It will take a measurable change in the way young clergy handle their benefits. “We won’t know right away, but we’ll follow up to see if it made a difference.”


UMR’s Baughman attending revitup! as a participant and workshop leader

Mike Baughman, UMR Correspondent

UMR’s Rev. Mike Baughman is the community curator for Union, a new kind of coffee shop in Dallas, TX that exists to care for the needs of its neighborhood. He is an elder in the Greater New Jersey Annual Conference.

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Wesley Sanders
Wesley Sanders


I was an attendee at the event, and it wasn't really about getting us excited to retire from ministry, but about

1) making sure we make good decisions so that we can retire without significant concerns for our financial well-being (especially considering that church-provided retirement benefits will be going nowhere but down)

2) helping us to ensure we use take appropriate steps to care for ourselves and our families to prevent early burnout.

Katie Z.

As a young clergy person, "looking forward" is a bit of a misnomer… I've got 41 years left until mandatory retirement 😉 I'm glad they put together this event. I attended a regional health and pension seminar in Iowa two years ago with another young clergy person. We were the only two people (besides presenters) under the age of 50… but we learned a ton. Because we have such a long way to go and because we know we simply can't rely upon things like Social Security or even the types of pension systems we have had in the past,… Read more »


Is it just me, or is the idea that our younger clergy are already looking forward to retirement a little disconcerting?


Actually it is a good sign. With so many young clergy leaving the ministry after short careers, it is encouraging to see young clergy thinking about what it takes to make ministry last a lifetime. To begin thinking about retirement now assumes that they will be serving the church for another 30-40 years.

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