Some Florida Baptist pastors don’t think about retirement
Aug 8, 2014
By CAROLYN NICHOLS
Florida Baptist Witness

Scores of Florida Baptist churches are led by pastors who may be old enough to collect Social Security but are far from retirement. They balance the realities of growing older with the demands of growing congregations. Among those pastors are Ken Harrison, pastor of Northside Baptist Church in Ponce de Leon, and Stan Hannan, pastor of First Baptist Church in Belleview.

Ken Harrison
 
Ken Harrison was licensed to preach in 1951 while he was a student at Florida State University. In a 63-year ministry, he has served five churches for 10 years or more. 
 
“I am a guy who stays. When you get me, you’ve got me. I’m pretty tough and I consider problems as opportunities for problem-solvers,” he said.
 
63 YEARS OF MINISTRY Ken Harrison, pastor at Northside Baptist Church in Ponce de Leon, was licensed to preach in 1951 while attending Florida State University. PHOTO BY INGRID GILLMAN
He has served at Northside Baptist in Ponce de Leon for 12 years. The growing congregation that numbers about 80 in worship is “getting in the groove” of age-graded Sunday School, the pastor said, and had a “great Vacation Bible School.” The youth group, led by a part-time youth director, now numbers about 15.
 
“If I could have asked the Lord for the perfect church to serve the last days of my ministry, this church would be it. It is a loving and wonderful church family,” Harrison said.
 
In 1986, he and his wife, Laura Nell, moved to the log cabin where he was born. His daughter and son live in nearby cities. Harrison farms and sells stock calves—“really good cows,” he said. He is reaping the benefits of a 56-year relationship with the Annuity Board that began when he started contributing $33.33 per month toward his retirement.
 
He ran a dropout prevention program for Walton County Schools for 12 years until he retired at age 65. Harrison then served as interim pastor for several churches in the Panhandle.
 
“It was a wonderful time, but I got tired of the traveling,” he said.
 
At 81, he is considered to be a “bivocational pastor” at Northside Baptist, although he said that is a misnomer.
 
“We all know that there is no such thing as a part-time church, and besides, I’m a workaholic,” he said.
 
Harrison spoke at the Florida Baptist Evangelism Conference in Bonifay in April. He offered advice to younger ministers in the audience. He said ministers need to stay at a church long enough for the church and the unchurched community to build confidence in the new pastor.
 
“Every church has a reputation in the community, and the pastor has to stay long enough for the people in the community to say, ‘That preacher down there—he’s alright,” he said. “When you go to a new church, find an older pastor who has been successful in the area. Put your pride in your pocket, and ask for his advice and his prayers.”
 
Stan Hannan
 
Stan Hannan, more than 10 years younger than Ken Harrison, describes himself as “revived but not retired.” His ministry at First Baptist Church in Belleview includes a weekly radio program, “Changing Seasons,” whose title is a nod to Hannan’s life motto in Ecclesiastes and his book, “To Everything a Season.” He said he has been “drawing Social Security a few years.”
 
“REVIVED BUT NOT RETIRED” First Baptist Church in Belleview Pastor Stan Hannan takes a picture with a boy dressed as him at a church fall festival. COURTESY PHOTO/STAN HANNAN
He said he “sees life as a continuance” and finds no evidence in the Bible of the retirement of ministers. Older servants bring a “wealth of experience in preaching and in studying.”
 
“They can be the best advisors in a most plausible and aggressive way,” he said.
 
Hannan said he wished he had realized the value of their advice when he was younger.
 
“At 40, you think you know everything. I wish that I had consulted and listened to them more. You can’t fake experience,” he said.
 
Hannan grew up in Rhodesia, a British colony in Central Africa before it became Zimbabwe. He served in the British-Rhodesian Army and then rejoined as a chaplain. As a pastor in Africa, he was president of the Baptist Union of Central Africa. Hannan moved to the U.S. in 1985, after Zimbabwe’s communist regime killed thousands of its citizens.
 
During his long ministerial career on two continents, he served at First Baptist Church in Eutis for 15 years and led the church to move its campus from downtown Eutis to a 47-acre site east of town. 
 
His relationship with First Baptist in Belleview began when the church called him to be its transitional pastor at a time when the church “needed breathing space before its next pastor.” The officially church called him as pastor in 2011.
 
Hannan said he often ministers to church members who are younger than he, who suffer with physical ailments or dementia. He is “realistic about aging,” he said.
 
“I played volleyball with my grandkids and it took me two days to recover,” he said with a laugh.
 
He and his wife, Norma, have three daughters and five grandchildren. All of their family members live “about an hour away.”
 
Hannan is a devoted walker and swimmer, and said he “feels as energetic and active as ever.” However, he vows to never let his physical or mental abilities “hold back a church.” A minister’s decision to step down “runs on parallel rails,” he said.
 
“You have to be sensitive to God’s leading. We are called and called away. We also have to be physically able to carry out our role. If we are not able, the intensity of our daily pattern should be throttled back,” he said. 
 
Some of the responsibility for pastors’ “burnout” rests with church members’ response to the pastor. They give their pastor “encouragement and energy to minister.”
 
“I have seldom encountered a more caring group of people as I have at this church, and it keeps me going strong,” he said.
 

WORDS OF WISDOM

Advice to young pastors from Ken Harrison at the Florida Baptist Evangelism Conference in Bonifay:

Marry the right wife.
Work hard.
You are the shepherd, not the CEO—whatever the size of your church.
Never touch the offerings.
Visit.
Spend time with your family.
Study God’s Word.
Preach the Word.
Love people unconditionally.

 

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