Stepping Aside, Moving Ahead

April 1st, 2017

Stepping Aside, Moving Ahead by Steve Harper is written in the form of compassionate, instructive letters to a fictitious “every-pastor” named Chris. This excerpt is from the letter entitled, “Ready to Retire?”

Dear Chris,

I am glad you are thinking about retirement now, rather than waiting until you have to compress a host of things into a short timeline. You may find your anxiety level higher (that is, “do I have to deal with all this right now?”), but in the long run, you will be glad you did it.

The place you will want to begin assessing your readiness for retirement is with yourself. If you do not start with yourself, you run the risk of later on blaming someone else for your decision. But even more, the clergy I have talked with confess that the main obstacles to retirement were inside themselves, or at least formidable enough to defer dealing with the external factors. Here are some questions other pastors gave me to consider, and I pass them on to you:

  • Can I cut back on work time and devote less time to professional life?
  • What retirement roles can legitimately keep my gifts and graces alive?
  • What existing or possible activities have the potential to generate some income?
  • Do I already have fulfilling non-professional activities?
  • What do I want to do alone in retirement? What do I want to do with others?

Questions like these help us to have quiet talks with our own souls, and they can help us create momentum to move outside ourselves to glean encouragement and guidance from others.

The physical dimension to retirement readiness will likely come into play while you are working in the personal domain. With respect to the physical, you can consider these things:

  • Are you in good health for your age?
  • Do you pay attention to things like diet, exercise, and sleep?
  • Are you at or near a proper weight for a person your age?
  • Do you know how health insurance works for retirees?

Questions like these help you plan to move into retirement in as good health as you possibly can. If you have a good primary-care physician, readiness to retire might include asking him/her what other factors contribute to a good retirement at the physical level.

With respect to relational factors, I have in mind such things as the way you and your spouse will work out retirement dynamics, as well as members of your family and others who need to play a formative role. You can consider questions like this:

  • Will (or should) my spouse continue to work after I retire?
  • Can we create separate spaces at home for each of us?
  • How can I foster life in my spouse and my spouse in me?
  • How will we share household responsibilities?
  • What do we look forward to doing together?
  • Do we have a friendship network beyond ourselves?
  • How will our family be helpful—or potentially problematic?
  • What have we learned from previous life changes that can help us now?

Questions like these can help you arrange and activate the social network that provides a larger context for your retirement.

Regarding social considerations, I have in mind drawing on existing people and resources in your church and community. There are people who help others retire and who can help you make connections you might never think of on your own. You can consider these kinds of questions as you seek to link your retirement to outside assistance:

  • Whom do I know who seems to have retired well?
  • What church members do I have that I can turn to for professional advice?
  • What local, state, and federal resources are available for retirees?
  • Do I have a lawyer to discuss legal matters (e.g., wills)?
  • Do I have a financial consultant?
  • What resources does my denomination provide to help folks retire well?

You will have to decide whether to explore social resources after you have announced your decision to retire, or if you can begin to do this prior to making a decision and announcing it. I have seen each of these options work, so I am not sure one is better. You know yourself and your situation.

This kind of exploration creates a sense within us that defines readiness positively and motivates us to begin putting it onto a timeline. This will inspire us to view the transition as part of God’s will and is a way to lead us into abundant living apart from the work we have done for so long.



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