Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Second career ministers

Once upon a time people looked at retirement as the opportunity to enjoy life and do the things they never had time to do during their working careers. Some moved to the beach; others to the mountains. Others moved closer to their grandchildren to enjoy more time with them. While some people still look forward to such retirement, increasing numbers of people are finding new life in second careers.

There are a number of reasons for this.  One is financial. It has been well documented that most baby boomers have not saved enough to enjoy a comfortable retirement, and it appears that those generations that follow us will be in even worse shape financially when it comes to retirement. A second reason is the large numbers of people who take early retirement. Many companies offer such lucrative early retirement options that it's foolish not to take them. A third reason is that we baby boomers enjoy work. We like staying busy. One can only golf and fish so much before it becomes boring. Besides, we like to feel that we can still make a difference even in our sunset years.

Several years ago Bob Buford wrote the book Finishing Well: What People Who Really Live Do Differently! that looked at people who successfully transitioned into second careers. Buford interviewed 60 people who turned their retirement years into opportunities to do things that made a difference.  It is an inspiring read for anyone approaching retirement who wonders what he or she will do next.

Your Ministry's Next Chapter: Restoring the Passion of the Mid-Career Pastor (Pastor's Soul Series) by Gary Fenton looks at the various stages of a pastor's ministry including the retirement years. I've also found it to be an interesting and helpful read.

We are seeing a number of individuals entering the ministry as a second career. Many of these had felt a call to ministry earlier in life, but for one reason or another did not respond to that call. I know one individual who is currently working on his master's degree from seminary as preparation for his upcoming retirement. He currently fills the pulpit in churches on Sundays and plans to become a pastor when he retires from his current job. That retirement and his seminary degree will come at about the same time.

His example points out an important point. If you are planning to do something different in retirement, now is the time to begin preparing for that. If you need additional education, pursue it now before you retire. If you need to learn new skills, now is the time to get those. Don't wait until you retire before you begin preparing for a second career.

What about those of us already in ministry? What might we do as a second career?  Many choose to serve as interim pastors. This allows them to use their skills and experience to serve a church that is seeking a new pastor. A number of retired pastors become bivocational ministers. Again, this allows them to use their education and experience in ministry without many of the pressures of a larger church. Some teach in seminaries, Bible schools, and universities training the next generation of church leaders. Others become church consultants, coaches, or mentors.

Just because a job ends at retirement it does not mean that one's calling ends as well. There are many things a minister can do in retirement that honors God's call on his or her life. Even if you are a few years away from retirement, now is the time to begin thinking and praying about what second career options might be best suited for you.

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