In 1996 I was able to take early retirement from the factory where I had worked since 1966. Our contract had a 30-and-out retirement available to us so I took it. I've never regretted that decision. A few months after I retired a person with whom I had worked took early retirement. I happened to run into him several months later and he complained that retiring was the worst thing he had ever done. He had nothing to do. He was bored. I told him to buy a fishing pole. Get a job at Wal-Mart. Find something you enjoy doing and do it. A few months later he died. I knew his brother well and asked if they knew what caused the death of his brother. He said there were no physical problems; his brother had literally bored himself to death. He could find no reason to live, and stopped.
Yesterday I focused on the importance of preparing yourself financially for retirement; today I want to address the emotional preparation. Pastors are typically busy people. Bivocational ministers are often extremely busy people. The day after your retirement you will wake up and not know what to do. There is no job to go to, no office, no hospital visits you need to make, no sermon to get ready for Sunday, no meetings to prepare for. One minister told me after his retirement he couldn't believe how few e-mails he now received. His inbox used to be full every day, and now he seldom gets more than a half-dozen. After retiring life will change, and you need to be prepared for it.
Part of that preparation will be deciding how you will spend your time. Some ministers want to travel. When you have spent a lifetime of your weekends being filled with responsibility it is nice to be able to get away and see all the places your congregation got to visit while you were at the church. I can see my wife and I taking off for a couple of months touring the country when we finally retire. Some will decide to move away to a different climate, and some may already have purchased retirement homes in places like Florida or Arizona. They want to get away from cold winters, play golf, fish, and enjoy life. Some will devote more time to their favorite hobbies. I know pastors who look forward to spending more time in their workshops or on the lake. Some will want to spend a lot of time with family visiting children and grandchildren. It really doesn't matter what you decide to do, just plan on doing something.
At some point you will have to make some decisions about ministry. It is one thing to retire, but I'm not sure one ever completely retires from ministry. Many pastors offer to become interim pastors or to fill the pulpits in churches when the pastor is away. Some take on the role of Visitation Pastor in a church. Doing these types of ministries does a couple of things. One, it keeps you involved in the work God called you to do without tying you down. Two, it helps remind you that God is not finished with you. Just because your phone doesn't ring every time you sit down to a meal or your e-mail inbox isn't full doesn't mean you have nothing to contribute to the Kingdom of God. It is a big boost emotionally to be reminded that God can still use you even in retirement.
Finally, I must insist that part of preparing emotionally for retirement is accepting that your work with your previous church is finished. In my final message to the congregation I served 20 years I told them I would always be their friend, but I could never again be their pastor. I told them I could not do their funerals or their weddings unless their new pastor personally asked me to be involved. Remaining in the same community has made that difficult at times, but I have honored the pastors who followed me by not interfering in their ministry to the people of that church. I hear from too many pastors who complain that the previous pastors keep coming back to do funerals and weddings making it hard for them to ever become any more than the preacher in the church. Friends, it is a violation of ministerial ethics for any minister to return to the church he or she formerly served and participate in those kinds of activities. You must come to grips with this or emotionally you will not be ready to retire.
If you have prepared yourself financially and emotionally for retirement you will enjoy your retirement much more than those who are not prepared. You will be able to enjoy a new sense of freedom and be able to do things with family that were not possible when you were employed. The younger you are the easier it will be to prepare yourself for retirement, but regardless of you age you need to start now to prepare for retirement. As I said yesterday, you may not want to retire but circumstances may be such that you have no choice at the time but to retire. If you're prepared it will be a much easier transition.