A Senior’s Ministry and Retirement

Editor’s Note: Christian Education and Publications is beginning to fulfill an earlier assignment by the General Assembly to develop a program of ministry around senior citizens. They are the fastest growing segment of our population. For example, in 2000 there were 70,000 centenarians in the U.S. One year later the number jumped to 100,000 and by 2050 it is projected to reach 834,000. Getting older can be a difficult experience in a person’s life, though I am convinced your ministry can thrive and grow as you age. David is even seen in Psalm 71 asking the Lord to continue his ministry in his older age: “Even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come.” I relate to that prayer because it expresses so clearly my own prayers and desires for the next generation to know the Lord and my desire to help them.

Recently, knowing that CEP is involved in offering some training around the theme of senior citizens with the able leadership of Dr. George Fuller, several people have asked questions about our program and materials. They have also asked us about retirement. Is it a biblical concept?

In the book review section we comment on Paul Tripp’s book, Lost in the Middle: Midlife and the Grace of God. In the book he makes this observation: “the Bible does not talk about midlife crisis, but the Bible tells us everything we need to know about midlife crisis.” I would say the same thing about retirement.

Retirement is one of the topics addressed in our resource manual materials, Serving and Challenging Seniors, edited by George C. Fuller. To answer the question in this section of Equip for Ministry, I will use one of the pages out of those materials, written by Richard L. Bucko, a deacon at the Cherry Hill PCA Church in Cherry Hill, New Jersey.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:23-24).

Making the transition to the next phase of life is often a difficult and stressful experience. What will we do with our time? Do we want to go out while we are at the top of our game? Will the financial resources be adequate? One important part of the retirement decision is what you will do with your time if you’re not at a job. Having an answer to these questions in advance will make the retirement decision easier and less stressful.

Some research indicates that the ideal “retirement” arrangement involves doing what you did before, just less of it. Some of us may have that option in our past employment, but most will find that the former workplace will have to be left behind.

For those who “cut the cord” to the former work environment, transition efforts to prepare for the next phase of life can be comparable to having a second job. A second job that may well, and perhaps should, last over a year. It takes thoughtful and realistic planning as well as serious introspection. As I approached retirement from my profession of 32 years, I listened carefully to the stories of those I knew, and of others who had already made the decision. It became clear that successful retirees were the ones who knew what they would do with their time prior to making the retirement announcement and certainly prior to the retirement date.

As members of the human family, as well as the Christian faith, we have been given needs that must be filled for us to be happy and content. There are the basic human needs of air, water and food, but there are the “higher order” needs that must also be met for us to achieve true happiness and contentment. These needs must be considered as we plan our life ahead. Human interaction, self-worth and meaning in our activity are some of the things we should consider in selecting our retirement options.

This raises the thoughtful question: Does a Christian ever retire? As a Christian the answer is, of course, no, but as a worker the answer is usually yes. So then, what are the options for the Christian retiree?

The Options

I. Interest
If we have an interest or curiosity in the world around us it is difficult to be bored. Develop a plan to explore and develop interests that can be an individual quest-climb that mountain-and then the next. Or it can be as part of a group such as a hiking club, boat building or work as a museum docent. The possibilities are only limited by our imaginations and curiosity. Many of us will have the opportunity to be engaged more in Bible study groups and to read the bible daily.

II. Other Work
Second, find a part-time or full-time job. Is there a position open at the local library, can you drive a school bus, teach a class, manage a store? If we are willing to consider part time-at a less lofty position than we once had-the number of possibilities may be surprising. The trade-off for that full-time position you left may be greater flexibility (fish or play golf on a Tuesday), less stress and more time to explore the other options.

III. Make a Difference
The third option involves making a difference. Another way of expressing this is that we all gain a stronger sense of self and of belonging when we can feel our activity has meaning. Making the world a better place, one act at a time. This includes volunteering at your church in a form of ministry such as work on church property, visiting nursing homes, or driving the elderly to the grocery store. It also includes volunteering for a committee in your town (Shade Tree Commission or Zoning Board), running for the school board or helping to beautify public gardens ( and your own). We can certainly make an impact on those higher order needs when we feel that we have made a difference in the lives of others.

Combining two or all three of the option categories is certainly possible and can lead to the attainment of those higher-order needs that result in satisfaction and contentment. None of us can order our lives to perfectly meet our needs for fulfillment and contentment. But planning in an organized and purposeful manner can certainly make a difference. The three option categories stated above can provide a core for purposeful planning that can be put on paper to begin a daily and weekly calendar. You may learn that it is the beginning of a bad day when you get up and say, “What am I going to do today?”

Richard L. Bucko, Ed. D.
Principal (retired), Moorestown School District, New Jersey
Adjunct Faculty, Fairleigh Dickinson University, New Jersey
Deacon, Covenant Presbyterian Church, Cherry Hill, New Jersey

You can obtain further information on CEP’s program, purchase the materials, and host a seminar in your church and presbytery on the senior citizen topic by contacting our office or Dr. George C. Fuller at fullergj@worldnet.att.net or 129 Farmington Road, Cherry Hill, NJ 08034-2513.

Charles Dunahoo pastored churches in Georgia and Alabama before being called to his present position as Coordinator for the PCA of Christian Education and Publications (CEP).

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