I’ve worked with a number of leaders over years that have been navigating their final years in vocational ministry. This is a unique phase of life: serving in the same role for a couple of years prior to retirement is one thing; serving in the same role for a decade or two (or three!) is a different thing altogether! There is a sense of finality that has not occurred during other life transitions. It can be an exciting time. For others, however, it can be a frightening season full of unknowns.
One leader I coached into retirement found peace during his final season of vocational ministry. I’d like to share how he did that and how you, whether you’re navigating your own transition to retirement or still have several decades, can prepare for a peaceful move into retirement as well.
Discovering Peace Leading into Retirement:
- Understanding the Lord is intimately involved throughout this time
- Experiencing the love and support of family and friends
- Life-giving opportunities to serve post-retirement
- Having a financial plan that allows to maintain your standard of living
The question leaders face in this season is, “What’s next?”
In retirement, some leaders envision unplugging altogether. Others want to continue their ministry in some capacity. Others, still, will pivot into an entirely new focus. The best path for you will likely be different from the path chosen by your peers and colleagues.
Coaching leaders into retirement can be a life-giving exercise, particularly for the leader who may not have another forum to process their thinking.
Coaching Leaders Into Retirement
Imagine this scenario: you are a lead pastor or a denominational leader. You have been serving in your role for more than two decades! Now, you are contemplating life after your transition off of ministry staff. If you have planned carefully, you have created a financial pathway that will meet your needs for the near and long-term future. Relationally, you have established healthy relationships or have a community you will be involved with once the grind of your working life slows. You might feel called into a new season of ministry that allows you to put your ministry experience to good use, empowering the next generation of emerging leaders to continue the work of making disciples, developing leaders, and investing in new works.
There is also another, less predictable scenario. The financial pathway is not as clear. You may not have many established healthy relationships and will need to invest the effort into developing a community that will benefit you during the next season. And, you may or may not have a desire to continue in a ministry context but still need to earn money to meet your financial obligations.
Whatever your situation, here is a list of questions leaders face when considering retirement. If these hit at the core of the issues you face or have seen others face–keep reading!
Challenges leaders face when considering retirement:
- Identity – who am I apart from my ministry role?
- The role in which you have served bleeds into your identity and you might need to establish who you are apart from what you do. A healthier narrative is rediscovering that you are valuable apart from what you do. Making that shift can be difficult; asking the right questions can help shift your perspective and help you rediscover your true identity.
- Significance – what will I do to make a difference?
- After you have transitioned out of vocational ministry, it can be a challenge to find ways to still make a difference in people’s lives. The answer to this might be engaging in things that you love but have put aside for a season and need to reactivate. Hobbies, volunteering, or recreational activities can serve as ways you can add value to people’s lives.
- Convergence – how can I leverage my experience to bless others?
- This is where many leaders I coach into retirement focus their energies. No longer are they serving out of obligation to a job but simply to bless others. Imagine taking the lifetime of experience you have garnered and now using that experience in a very focused way, doing only those things you enjoy doing, like writing, preaching, or training leaders.
This is a wonderful time for a coach to help ensure leaders finish well! Coming alongside a leader through the season leading up to retirement and post-retirement is an honor and privilege. It is a unique opportunity to help a leader reflect on his or her life and prepare for an unprecedented transition, capturing learnings while they are still fresh in the mind of the leader.
During this season, celebrate the “wins” that God has accomplished along the journey!
The theme of Bobby Clinton’s work on Leadership Emergence Theory in “The Making of a Leader” is that few leaders finish well! It is evident when a leader is finishing well–that leader is more in love with Jesus now than when he or she began their journey of faith, has a lifetime of life and ministry fruit to show for it, and is still going strong even until the end of their life.
The road to retirement can be rich and full of future opportunities–the right coach can help navigate that journey and walk alongside leaders in any situation to finish their journey well!