Do retired ministers need to be accountable?

If as a retired minister God still has a call on our lives, then it seems to me that we need to be accountable for the ministry we exercise in our retirement. In the first instance, of course, we are accountable to God; and yet there is much to be said for finding opportunities to give account of our ongoing ministry to one or two friends. For, to adapt the words of 1 John 4.20, “We cannot be accountable to God whom we have not seen, if we are not willing to be accountable to a brother or sister, whom we have seen”. Certainly, as someone who for over more than twenty-five years benefitted from an annual ‘appraisal’ in my so-called ‘working’ life, I have missed the opportunity in retirement to review the past and to set fresh goals for the future.

I accept that nobody has a right to hold the retired accountable – for the essence of retirement is that we are free agents. Indeed, the beauty of retirement is that we are free to serve God ‘on our own terms’, rather upon terms set down for us by a church. And yet, precisely because I want to be able to continue to give my best to God, I think there is much to be said for allowing others to have input into my life. Or if that is not possible, then at least undergoing the discipline of self-review.

In the last five years since I have been ‘retired’, as a member of the College of Baptist Ministers I have maintained a personal portfolio for ‘continuing ministry development’ in which I report on various aspects of my ministry. Every six months or so I have submitted a written account of my ministry to other members of the board of the College. I confess, the practice of reporting to a board which has more wide-ranging responsibilities is not ideal, and I am looking to find another context in which I can report. However, the multi-stranded nature of accountability which is built into the portfolio is most useful.  These strands include:

  • Applied Practice. In this section I list the blogs, articles, and books I have written
  • Here I record how I interact with other ministers
  • This includes one-off lectures, courses, and visits
  • For me this involves leading seminar sessions for Breakfast with the Bible on a Sunday, leading a mid-week home group, preaching in various churches, mentoring, and pastoral care
  • Here I reflect on how I maintain my walk with the Lord
  • ‘Other’ – a ‘catch all’ category where I list a wide range of activities many of which have very little to do with the church, but which are part of my life

One ‘strand’ missing from the College’s proforma portfolio is the opportunity to reflect on future goals and projects. When I first retired, I set myself fifteen concrete goals. Many of these goals I have achieved, but others have changed. Three months ago I drew up a three page paper in which I set goals and projects for the next three years. These included: celebrating the 50th anniversary of my ordination in October 2020; publishing a weekly blog until October 2020; listing possible writing projects; a final trip to New Zealand combining a holiday with some teaching; and some thoughts (rather than goals) on ministry development. In addition, of course, there were goals relating to the home and the wider family as also the development of new personal skills. All in all there were forty-eight specific goals – although I hasten to add that all of these goals are subject to the caveat, ‘God willing’. Who knows what the future holds? We are vulnerable people.

To sum up: I feel I am accountable to God for the ‘dream’ or ‘vision’ he has given me of my retirement, and that I need to express that accountability in conversation with one or two trusted friends. What do you think?

One comment

  1. What varied and interesting goals you have set yourself (with inspiration from God), Paul . I agree that it is critically important to share these and how you have accomplished them with others whom you trust; for communication, I think, is an essential ingredient of good living.

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