The Bible Reading Fellowship have just published my latest book, Making the Most of Retirement: A Guide for Ministers – the first such guide ever published in Britain. Some 145 pages in length and priced at £7.99, it can be ordered from bookshops or from Amazon.
Why a special guide for ministers? Because retired ministers are different from other people. When they retire, most lose not only their job and status, but also their home (for they have lived in tied accommodation belonging to the church for all of their ministry). They may lose many of their possessions, for in down-sizing to a much smaller retirement home they have to get rid of so much. They may lose some their friends (if not many of their friends if their last pastorate has been lengthy), for on retirement they are expected to move away from the ‘parish’. To cap it all, although retired, most feel they cannot escape the call that God has on their life; and almost all continue going to church for worship where they experience another minister leading the services in a way which is not always to their taste.
The book is divided into four main sections: 1. Beginning a new journey; 2. Finding new purpose; 3. Living a full life; and 4. Preparing for the final journey. Let me give a flavour by reproducing part of the first chapter entitled Enjoy the new adventure:
Retirement, wrote David Adam, is about experiencing “new adventures”. I love the term ‘adventure’. It reminds me of my childhood, when I devoured Enid Blyton’s stories of the ‘Secret Seven’ and the ‘Famous Five’. Indeed, it has been said that growing old successfully requires “the curiosity of a five-year-old and the confidence of a teenager. There is nothing we can’t do if we want to do it.” Growing old can be an exciting business!
Adventures by definition carry an element of risk: “It’s something you’ve got to go with daring”, said John Hinde, who on ending his career at Lloyds of London set up a new farming community. There are times when we shall get things wrong, and perhaps have to start again. But even so, let’s not be afraid to push the boundaries, and see what is possible. As T.S. Eliot suggested, “Old men ought to be explorers”.
In this book I want to encourage my fellow retired ministers to be positive about their new stage of life. The pace may have changed, but as the eighty-five year old Caleb discovered, there are still mountains to climb (Joshua 14.12). Or as Richard Morgan put it: Caleb “asked for a challenge, not a cushion. He wanted more adventures in his ‘retirement’ years.” There is a future to look forward to, and not just a past to look back upon.
True, in some ways the journey into retirement can feel scary. There have been times when I have felt like Abraham, who in his mid-seventies “by faith… set out, not knowing where he was going” (Hebrews 11.8). Just as the years of active ministry held all sorts or surprises, so too the years of retirement hold all kinds of surprises for us. God alone knows how many years lie ahead of us; God alone knows how long we shall be blessed with health and strength. But one thing we do know, and that is that God promises to be with us and so he will continue to be with us in all the twists and turns of the journey. In that regard, we need to claim Psalm 121 for ourselves: “I lift up my eyes to the hills – from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”
Retired ministers need to have the spirit of Helen Keller, the blind-deaf American social activist and author, who in her book Let Us Have Faith, and in the chapter entitled ‘Faith Fears Not’, declared in bold print: “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing”. Or as we might say in this context: ‘Retirement is either a daring adventure or nothing’. So long as God gives us breath we are called to rise to the challenge of living for him and with him. True, there will be tough times. Life must have been incredibly tough for Helen Keller. But there will be many good times too. So let’s be determined to enjoy the new adventure which is ours.
Although the book’s focus is on ministers, I would like to think that there is much within it that is relevant to any Christian who is retired or moving towards retirement. For the call to discipleship does not cease the moment we retire – God still has a call on every Christian’s life. As Os Guinness wrote:
As followers of Christ we are called to be before we are called to do and our calling both to be and to do is fulfilled only in being called to him. So calling should not only precede career but outlast it too. Vocations never end, even when occupations do. We may retire from our jobs, but never from our calling. We may at times be unemployed, but no one ever becomes uncalled.
Furthermore, the ageing process together with its limitations and challenges, is common to us all, whether ordained or not.
So please do buy a copy – and happy reading!
A good reminder that we can never opt out and are never let off the hook! But hopefully we shall be enabled to expect new things with a degree of lightneartedness!