Three ways for you to look amid the suffering of Covid

Things are tough. Have been for a very long time. And look to be this way for a while yet. So how are we to make the best fist we can of getting through it?

I’ve become convinced it has much to do with the direction in which we chose to look. And that’s what I want to unpack for you. But first, let’s be clear that the pain that comes from Covid should not be a surprise.

This is perfectly expressed by a memorable line in Shadowlands, the biopic of CS Lewis. When his wife Joy, close to death from cancer, comforted her husband with the line – ‘down here, suffering is part of the deal’.

But actually, the Bible got there first. Consider these lines from Ecclesiastes chapter 3 – perhaps you can hear The Byrds singing them – 

There is a time for everything, 
and a season for every activity under the heavens: 
a time to be born and a time to die . . . . 
a time to weep and a time to laugh, 
a time to mourn and a time to dance

Right now, there’s no shortage of weeping and mourning – for all that has been lost as the result of Covid. Most of us probably know someone who has died – certainly we know someone who has had the virus. 

Then there’s the huge level of loneliness, isolation and disappointment felt by many. Children have had endless disruption not to mention teachers and home-schooling parents who have had to cope. 

Perhaps prophetically, Ecclesiastes also promises –

A time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,

And here we are in pain for the lack of hugs – the number one thing a poll on the AfterWorkNet Facebook page people said they are most looking forward to.

All this prompted me to think where I should be looking to not only survive but to ask that right question in my own life. ‘God – what are you wanting to teach me?’ I came up with ‘three ways to look’.

We need to look in 

Looking in means to look after ourselves and take care. There is nothing wrong with being careful about where we go and who we speak to. 

It is too easy to focus on those who stand outside hospitals and say this pandemic isn’t real. Or to get wound up at the news of people having wedding parties with 400 people there. 

Instead, we have a duty to look after ourselves – physically, emotionally and spiritually. 

Physically: This is about being wise regarding diet and exercise – even though temptation is close and exercise is harder with so much closed. But getting through this is going to take some commitment to cherish ourselves – and also being kind to ourselves when we fail.

Emotionally: Here we must take account of the reality of the grief that comes with the wide range of loss we are experiencing – from loss of life itself to loss of dreams. And so much in between. 

That calls us to give ourselves space, weep with those who weep and to have a good cry when we need to.

Spiritually: Nurturing our spiritual side is harder when energy is drained and emotions are stretched. That calls for realism. But time in the Bible, perhaps the Psalms, or letting your taste in worship music wash over you could do wonders for your soul.

We need to look out

It is surely healthy to have something beyond our front door that reminds us that we may be struggling but there is almost certainly someone who is worse off. Perhaps in our neighbourhood, in our church or even further afield. 

Maybe just pick up a phone when someone comes to mind.

It could also mean having our eyes on our world. As I did when part of a Zoom Tearfund prayer breakfast recently. It was moving to hear of all that has hit Ethiopia in the last few months. A plague of locusts, hunger, poverty, floods and the second highest Covid rate in Africa. 

As a result, I should be looking for a project which can be an ‘out focus’ for me. 

Indeed, our ‘look out’ project could equally be a neighbour or a hospital in the Sudan that we pray for, send messages to or send some support funds. 

We need to look up

It is as true now as ever it was – that ‘God is our refuge and strength; a very present help in trouble’ (Psalm 46:1). We have a great creator God who sent his son be our Saviour. 

If life feels rough, talk to him. He knows all there is to know and he understands pain because his son suffered just that. It would be great to have real-life fellowship to share things but we can’t at the moment. So, we need to look to him. 

Maybe a ‘read time’ each day – Billy Graham had a daily discipline of reading a Psalm to remind him what God is like and a chapter of Proverbs to remind him how to deal with people. 

Our great God has not gone ‘on leave’ while we suffer this pandemic. He is not gloating over our plight. But, as he often did in the Bible, he is longing that, as we suffer these difficult times, we become people who are more and more reliant on him. 

So, which way should we be looking – of course it’s ALL THREE. Time spent looking after yourself. Time spent engaged with someone struggling with life. Time spent with the God who loves and who has plans and purposes for you (Jeremiah 29 v11) and who still reigns supreme.

Think this might be helpful to others? Then please share using the simple links below. Thank you.

Dave Fenton

Dave, AfterWorkNet’s Director is a retired clergyman. He’s spending his after-work time lecturing at Moorlands College, and – when things are more normal, builds relationships and shares his faith at his local golf club, and escapes to a cliff-top caravan in Cornwall where his seven grandchildren enjoy the local surfing beach.

Could you be a more courageous grandparent? Here’s 5 ways.

Let’s face it, grandparenting is not an inexact science. If you are one, it’s something you know only too well. No grandchild conforms to a stereotype. Each is a unique and precious individual.

So where can we find help on how we can bless our grandchildren with our lives, our resources and our time?

Enter stage right Cavin Harper with his helpful book ‘Courageous Grandparenting’. It’s overflowing with wisdom to help us make the best of our role – especially from a Christian perspective.

To give you a taster and encourage you to dig deeper, let me walk you through 5 of Cavin’s key subject areas. If you are a grandparent he wants you to have the courage to –

1. Wake up to your responsibility

You may well identify with Cavin’s realisation that ‘My life was changed the day my first grandchild arrived’. In that context he speaks about realising being a grandparent is both a privilege and a responsibility.

He writes, ‘That day I determined to make sure my grandchildren knew the (Bible) story. Even more I wanted to do all I could to make sure my generation of emerging grandparents understood what was at stake if we did not wake up to our responsibility’.

He believes grandparents have a duty to do everything they can to help their grandchildren find faith. As he puts it, ‘we talk, we pray and we act in any way which points our grandchildren to faith in Christ.’

2. Don’t be a maybe boomer

Cavin points out that today’s active grandparents are the Boomer generation – born in the years after the last world war and growing up as teens in the 60s. This makes them the youngest grandparents in western civilisation.

That means we are likely to be active ourselves – with part time or even full time work that is either paid or voluntary, energy and health equipping us for ‘adventures’ of our own. All of which can distract us from seeing grandparenting as we should.

Cavin challenges us about our willingness to be less involved with ‘doing our own thing, protecting our own portfolios and pursuing personal comfort rather than being a conduit of blessing for the next generation’.

3. Be an ally and not adversary

Cavin is convinced ‘successful grandparents know it is not just about their grandkids and them’. Rather, it’s about parents and grandparents being on the same team – ‘as allies, not adversaries’.

Read his book and you will find helpful guidance about how we develop good relationships across the three – maybe even four – generations. This includes his assertion that ‘Effective grand parenting is a more achievable goal if you can maintain, as much as is in your power to do so, a strong and healthy relationship with your grandchildren’s parents’.

4. Take time to understand

Cavin notes that as grandkids move from being kids to teens they have a culture very different from their grandparents. And that this extends well beyond the way they dress, the music they listen to and the way they spend their time.

He suggests we can be negative to their culture because it doesn’t fit our own norms. Even critiquing youth culture with our mature wisdom may not cut much ice. Rather, we should try to understand so as to know better what to do or say to our grandchildren.

The child’s main concern is not if it’s true but does it work for me, the writer points out and argues, ‘I am convinced no amount of reason or carefully crafted persuasion will engage the world and cause it to change. It is the incarnation of truth by people of unshakable faith that will open the door for the Holy Spirit to convict the world’.

5. Untangle the technology web

Perhaps like me you’ve seen a 12-year-old send a text at the speed of light with their eyes closed. This, and everything online, is their natural habitat. With some seeming to spend more time in front of a screen than they do sleeping.

As Cavin points out, for many of those who are two generations above them this is all in great contrast to ‘the way we did things’. But whether you are ‘tech-savvy’ or not, your grandchildren are. If all they experience from us is a negative attitude to the world they live in then the opportunity for effective dialogue will shut down’.

Cavin’s book has many helpful suggestions about engaging technology to our advantage. Step by step he works through ‘God is the creator of technology, ‘Technology is not inherently evil, and Technology can be used for good’.

As a grandparent of 7, this book opened my eyes to some of my own mistakes – leaving me wishing I’d read it 20 years ago. It also encouraged me to keep going and to try some things I haven’t yet tried.

Furthermore, Cavin Harper’s book made me realise I am not the only one who could do a little better in the grandparenting stakes. Which is why I hope many others will read this very engaging and helpful book ‘Courageous Grandparenting: Building a legacy worth outliving you’.

Think this might be helpful to others? Then please share using the simple links below. Thank you.

Dave Fenton:

Dave is a retired clergyman spending his after-work time lecturing at Moorlands College, building relationships and sharing his faith at his local golf club, and escaping to a cliff-top caravan in Cornwall where his seven grandchildren enjoy the local surfing beach.

Pick from these 12 great resources to spruce up your spiritual life during lockdown

With a little more time on your hands than normal, now’s the moment to dig a little deeper to refresh your spiritual life. And there’s lots out there to help you – some created especially with this season in mind.

Here come 12 valuable resources for you to choose from and in no particular order. Enjoy and be enriched.

Want to do better with the Bible?

Top of the tree has to be The Bible Course from Bible Society. This superb series of 8 videos gives an overview of the Bible’s ‘big story’ and particularly shows how the Old Testament points to Jesus. The small cost involved is well worth it.

Also from Bible Society is Lyfe, to help individuals and small groups discover a deeper life with God. It draws deeply on the Bible and spiritual practices that have inspired and sustained Christians throughout the centuries.

Or how about seriously adding to the Bible verses you have tucked away in your mind. Here the Bible Memory App could be exactly what you need. It even has tips to improve your memory.

Want to do better with prayer?

To discover prayer through fresh eyes – and explore everything from ‘Why Pray’ to ‘Adoration’ to ‘Unanswered Prayer – the Prayer Course has no equal. The 8 sessions each have a 20-minute video plus questions to explore further. Don’t keep it to yourself as this is also perfect for a ‘virtual’ small group.

When it comes to putting prayer into action, there’s a choice from two excellent Bible-based meditations. Both help you to ‘pray the Bible’ daily based on Lectio Divina. This dynamic way of reading the Scriptures follows the four-step approach of Reading, Meditation, Prayer and Contemplation.

One is from Bible Society with free downloads based on the three year lectionary cycle. The other is Lectio 365 an app from 24-7 prayer which tends to have a more topical approach and reflects the core values of the 24-7 prayer initiative.

Want a daily boost?

There’s a free phone line – 24 hours a day – with prayers, hymns and their story, a message from the Archbishop of Canterbury and more. Called Daily Hope, this is designed for those stranded by not being able to access an online church service – so be sure to share. But all are welcome. Check it out on 0800 804 8044.

For a short daily Bible-based audio message, CWR have Life Every Day Extra featuring Jeff Lucas. It has no shortage of wit, wisdom and practical application.

Want to enjoy a feast?

With the major Christian worship and teaching festivals not able to take place there is – or will be – some excellent online resources.

Right now there’s a huge archive of seminars, celebrations, fun and more from Spring Harvest at Home with every age group in mind.

On the way is a rich choice of Bible teaching, celebrations and lectures from the Keswick Convention which goes on line from July 13 to August 2 and, no doubt, will stay there for some time.

Want the joy of your grandkids getting closer to God?

With much grandkid contact happening through Zoom or Facetime there’s the opportunity to add a God dimension.

Scripture Union have developed excellent lockdown resources to ‘reach out while we can’t go out’. These include ‘Make and pray’ for children, with craft and loads of great ideas to inspire children and young people to engage with the Bible. ‘

Faith in Kids have materials to be used at home – useful for home schooling – and to help you teach children at a distance. They also have ideas on how to keep Junior Church children involved and well worth passing on to others.

Want to check your ‘spiritual balance’?

Now is the opportunity to take a longer look at how your spiritual life is going. From CWR, their self-diagnosis evaluation on Keeping Your Spiritual Balance offers a great opportunity to affirm what’s good and to take some steps forward where needed.

That’s my 12. Don’t try them all or you could blow a gasket. But please do start somewhere.

I confess the list is somewhat personal and reflects my own sphere of knowledge and interest. So do please make your own suggestions by adding them here or on the AfterWorkNet Facebook page.

Dave Fenton:

Dave is a retired clergyman spending his after-work time lecturing at Moorlands College, building relationships and sharing his faith at his local golf club. And looking forward to lifted restrictions letting him escape to a cliff-top caravan in Cornwall.

Think this might be helpful to others? Then do please share using the simple links below.

Locked down? Take time for the 3 most important questions.

As an actively retired person in lockdown you are at risk. Not from the virus but from something hazardous in another way.

It’s the danger of doing no more than replacing one set of activities with another. For example, many cupboards are now tidier and gardens looking lovelier than they have ever been.

For my part, my garage door has been transformed from dirty grey to pristine white.

But, in all this, there’s the risk of simply filling our lockdown with things that keep us busy and our minds from thinking too deeply.

What if we have been given a massive opportunity to pause and reflect? To ask ourselves –

What is God saying in the midst of all this upheaval and absence of ‘normal’?

There seems to be no shortage of people telling us what they think God is saying to nations and his Church. That this is his judgement on a world that’s rejected him. That this is God’s last statement before Jesus returns. And more.

But we can never be sure we know the complete answer to any of them? Even then, what God may be saying to one culture could be very different to what he’s saying elsewhere.

More than that, speculating around these big questions can mean we avoid the one question we can address. It’s ‘What is God saying TO ME?

Indeed, in this season of my active retirement have I ever given God a chance to speak to ME about ME? Have I ever taken time in a quiet place – like Jesus – to reflect on what God might want me to hear?

To do this means creating space – sometimes hard but worth doing. Starting by waiting on God and finding it helpful to read a Psalm or other portion of scripture.

I’m not talking about a long period of introspection and self-criticism. That can be good but should be brief. Rather I suggest such a time should lead to facing these 3 important questions.

1. How is my relationship with God?

Be realistic about the direction you are travelling with him, your sense of him being with you and lining up your life with what you understand of his intentions for you.

Start from a position of believing God wants to speak to you – because he does. And that, because he is God and you are not, he has the authority to speak about you and to you.

Treat it as a privilege which busyness may have shut off. ‘Be still and know that I am God’ (Psalm 46.10) may never have had such significance.

Ask God for answers as to what could be done to make your relationship richer and even more valuable. And make a commitment to do them.

2. Who is my first date?

This is not an invitation to hit the town. But busyness can mean we flit from one person to another without spending meaningful time with anyone. As you listened to God, see if one name crops up. Someone you could develop a deep and lasting relationship with.

If so – and I hope so – this is your first date after lockdown. Or your next Zoom meeting – something as a low-order techie I’ve found surprisingly easy to use.

Your first date could involve you in establishing a mentoring or encouraging relationship. Or offer time and attention to someone you know to be lonely.

Whoever it is, make a date with one person and follow it through.

3. What’s your next project?

If you have not said it yourself you are likely to have heard if from one of your actively retired friends – ‘I’ve never been busier’ or ‘I’m busier than when I was working full time’.

It’s often spoken with great pride. At times even as if it’s an indication of living exactly the way God intends.

But is this the time to take stock? To step back from drivenness?

Take time to bring before God everything you do (bit by bit) and ask God to speak to you about that activity. Should it stay or should it go? Does it need either pruning or developing?

Is there one activity that should become more of a focus than the rest? Is it time to move on from the ‘I’m indispensable’ mode and do some pruning?

These times are giving us an all too rare opportunity to stop, think, and engage with the God who made us and loves us – to take stock and re-evaluate.

 Please don’t miss it.

Do you have another question that seems important? Please share it using the links below. And feel free to have your say either here or on our Facebook page.

Dave Fenton

Dave is a retired clergyman spending his after-work time lecturing at Moorlands College, building relationships and sharing his faith at his local golf club, and escaping to a cliff-top caravan in Cornwall where his seven grandchildren enjoy the local surfing beach.

The A to Z of getting older – discover 26 priorities for a good retirement

Waiting for you are 26 priorities for a good retirement – one for each letter of the alphabet. Though you’ll only get a taster here. The full set are in Derek Prime’s excellent book ‘A Good Old Age’.

Don’t be put off by that word ‘old’. Derek’s book is all about living a fruitful retirement after years of hard work. With the subtitle – ‘An A to Z of loving and following the Lord Jesus in later years’.

With insight and wisdom, Pastor and Bible teacher Derek Prime, himself in his 80s takes you from A for Acceptance to Z for Zeal. On the way covering things like C for contentment, P for peaceable, V for victorious and X for X-factor.

Let me give you a few tasters.

C for Contentment: Derek writes, ‘Areas of my life bring both contentment and discontent. This can be seen in our family and friends. We can be proud of them, but it may be that we see too little of them, perhaps making us think they do not care much about us’.

Recognising we all have to deal with joys and sorrows he concludes ‘day by day the reading of the scriptures feeds our contentment’

H for Hope: Derek deals with the true meaning of Christian hope. He says, ‘‘Hope means rather than thinking wistfully about the past and what I am missing, I will be thinking with eager anticipation of what God promises me in the future’.

J for judgement: This includes Derek facing the folly of judgementalism. He writes ‘It puts up barriers and ruins relationships particularly between different age groups. It is better, by God’s grace, to be an instrument of his peace than a member of Satan’s fifth column’.

The book has a lovely balance. It does not minimise the new pressures faced by those in their retirement years and gives positive answers on how we can live as fulfilled followers of Christ during them.

The more I read the book, the more I wanted to say – ‘this is how I want to be’. It gave me things I can work on. Character traits that need healing – like tending to be a grumpy old man.

Each chapter concludes with a prayer. And I was humbled by the one at the end of ‘T for Talk’

‘Please help me, Lord, to so fill my heart with the good things of your word that my tongue may share and speak about them when the opportunity is present. May the talk that comes out of my mouth be always helpful and beneficial to others’.

The book has had a mass of 5 star reviews. So I encourage you to take a look. Ether read it straight through or a chapter a day over a longer period. It has also been used as study material for a small group.

The book is a gem. And written by someone with a deep love for God and willing to face the issues retirement brings with fresh insights from God’s word.

A Good Old Age by Derek Prime is published by the Good Book Company with discounts for bulk purchase.

Read something here that would encourage others. Please share it using the links below. And feel free to have your say either here or on our Facebook page.

Dave Fenton:
Dave is a retired clergyman spending his after-work time lecturing at Moorlands College, building relationships and sharing his faith at his local golf club, and escaping to a cliff-top caravan in Cornwall where his seven grandchildren enjoy the local surfing beach.

Don’t let the Victor Meldrew’s get you. Here’s how.

Of course it could never happen to you, could it? The drift towards grumpiness that can characterise some in their after-work years.

But are you sure? After all, without the focus of employment to occupy us, there’s more time to bemoan the state of the world, our church, our relationships and such?

Is it possible that when we retire we may drift into thinking we deserve a bit of personal pampering? That it’s our right for things to be done our way? This is fuelled by the danger of attitudes hardening as we get older. Leading to us becoming more fixed and less open; more opinionated and less tolerant.

As a result, without realising, we are in danger of drifting towards negativity and a touch of the grumps. We may not go round screaming ‘I can’t believe it!!!’ at regular intervals, but we can too easily head in the direction of being a mini Victor Meldrew.

Yet the Bible says ‘Do everything without complaining’. (Philippians 2:14). And that instruction might be very apposite for those in their years of retirement.

So how can we guard our lives? Here’s some thoughts that may be in the best interest of those around you.

Why we might get it wrong

It is easy to forget that we are now living in the new world of retirement. Things are different. The daily routines have shifted. The security of working life has vanished.

As a result, it’s easy to turn in on ourselves in search of alternative securities. That can mean putting the focus on how we expect things to be done and how they should be.

With this in mind I found some inspiration from Thomas Rainer, founder and CEO of a US internet community. He lists the kind of things he tries to avoid as he becomes more senior as –

  • Having an entitled attitude because of my giving to the church
  • Saying I’ve done my time
  • Focusing more on recreation than on serving
  • Complaining
  • Being more concerned about my preferences than the needs of others

What is at the heart of our life?

Our life has been focussed on clearly defined objectivities. These lead us into all kinds of actions which fill up most of our waking hours. Retirement gives us the chance to re-calibrate our lives and to follow a fresh set of values. Paul defines his values in Romans 12:9 to 21).

They are simple – they don’t need explanation. They demand action

  • Love must be sincere
  • Hate what is evil, cling to what is good
  • Be devoted to one another in love
  • Honour one another above yourselves
  • Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord
  • Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer
  • Share with the Lord’s people who are in need
  • Practice hospitality
  • Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse
  • Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn
  • Live in harmony with one another

AND SO ON …….  There is more. It’s a long list. And if we could do half of it, it could transform our lives.

How easy it is to drift into introspection and change resistance. The essence of Paul’s list is looking to the needs of others as being more important than our own needs. Do that and there will be no room for complaining and the grumps.

Paul has defined how to live as a Christian. These things are easy to lose sight of in the after-work era of our lives.

So let us be people of God committed to his purposes and use both time and experience to grow the Kingdom and not a grumpy attitude. We have so much to give and fresh horizons await if only we look to THE SON.

In contrast to Mr Meldrew, you’d better believe it.

If you’ve found this helpful do share it using the links below. And if you have something to add to the conversation please respond to this blog or on our Facebook page.

Dave Fenton

Dave is a retired clergyman spending his after-work time lecturing at Moorlands College, building relationships and sharing his faith at his local golf club, and escaping to a cliff-top caravan in Cornwall where his seven grandchildren enjoy the local surfing beach.


Your words, wisdom and help could be more valuable than you imagine. Here’s how.

Have you ever thought how valuable your life experience could be to others – especially those coming up behind you? Or that part of God’s plan is to use what you have learned for the benefit and blessing of others?

Please don’t undervalue what you have to offer as the result of the years you have lived and the way God has shaped your life. And remember, one of the great blessings that comes with later years is the wisdom you have accumulated.

With the end of fulltime work, two things come into play. First there’s the knowledge, wisdom and experience you have gathered. Second, there’s the time to use it.

So, when reviewing your post retirement life, think about the new relationships now possible. And how you can enrich others through them.

The posh word is ‘mentoring’ meaning ‘a system of semi-structured guidance whereby one person shares their knowledge, skills and experience to assist others to progress in their own lives and careers.’

But it doesn’t need to be anywhere near as formal as that. Although if those involved understand what’s going on, and are fully committed to the process, it can be of great value.

The concept is not new.

There are many examples of mentoring in the Bible. Joshua served as Moses’ deputy from the Exodus in Egypt to the time of Moses’ death. There must have been a learning process for the young man until he assumed the leading role.

Elisha was coached by Elijah. And Paul was very deliberate in his preparation of Timothy for ministry. As a result, a man known to be timid became the leader of the large church at Ephesus.

It is about generation to generation

In Israel today you would see a clear role for senior members of a family to pass on their wisdom and experience to younger family members.

On a visit to Australia’s Uluru (Ayers Rock) two large slabs of rock were pointed out to me where the tribe’s senior women would gather the younger women to do ‘women’s business’. The men had a similar rock.

So, in many cultural settings like this there seems to be a need to pass on helpful wisdom to those who are younger. Yet I wonder if we have created generational tribes each having no expectation to learn from others or contribute to others. Yet that is not the picture the Bible gives us.

So how can we develop the way things should be in our church communities?

Where to start?

How God has shaped you makes you able to help shape another human being. So in your post retirement plan leave space for at least one new relationship.

You may not think you have anything much to offer but your mentee probably won’t see it that way. Just having someone to talk to outside of their immediate family and workplace can be a life-saver. And if crises come, they have somewhere to go.

So don’t be timid or backward. Trust God to inspire you and open opportunities. Here are 3 ways to get started.

  1. Pray for families you know who are trying to bring up their children with all the pressures of family and work.
  2. Look out for single people – those in work or not. Ask if there is anything you can pray for in their lives. Make sure you follow it up some time later.
  3. Use church social time, like coffee after a service, to start a conversation with someone outside of your age bracket – preferably someone younger. This conversation might be about work and/or family. Just take an interest.

Some of my mentoring relationships have begun simply with a question at the back of church like ‘how’s work going’ or ‘how are the family?’. Sometimes I get the classic Christian response ‘We’re fine’. But not always. And a simple follow up is ‘fancy a drink sometime?’. One word of caution – keep this single sex.

If that informal conversation is as far as it goes, that’s fine. You’ve shown an interest and that may lead to nothing more. But you have offered non-critical friendship to someone who may well come back at a future date. You have also made it known that you do not simply operate in your own age band but are prayerfully interested in younger people.

If the conversation develops into something more, these may be the best steps to take.

1. Offer to meet for a drink/coffee, either in a home in a pub/café, just to catch up from previous chats. Issues that came up in your informal conversations would be a good basis for your discussion.

Lines like these may be good starters

  • You told me about your 7-year-old – how’s she doing?
  • Are the pressures at work any easier?
  • Tell me about your job – it sounds really interesting / boring.

In other words, try to remember the things you were told and bring them up.

2. At the end of the first meeting get some feel as to how the relationship can proceed. Some may say an occasional chat would be good. Establish who will be the initiator – probably not you. Others may say it would be good to meet up on a more regular basis. Make sure the date is fixed.

3. If it is to be more regular then there needs to be something more structured. At this point you are getting close a to a genuine mentor/mentee relationship. You could suggest that next time you look at the Bible together, spend some time in prayer, talk about work, talk about family or any combination of the above.

4. Some would go a stage further and establish negotiated accountability structures. At this point you are probably asking more deep and personal questions. Your church leader should know about any regular meetings you are having.

5. As we are Christians, there should always be some mention of what it means to be a disciple of the Lord Jesus. We should not be afraid to look at helpful portions of the scriptures to point us to Christian values and behaviour.

6. The Bible clearly points us to older/younger relationships that are both healthy and helpful. As we reach retirement years, I would suggest many of us have time to develop this kind of relationship and ought to be doing so.

One final word of caution.

In any conversation, beware of becoming the wise old sage who’s seen it all before and knows the answers to every human problem. Don’t come over as an agony aunt who’s forgotten the question and loves to relate their full life history.

The primary discipline is ‘listening’. Hear what your friend is saying and help them to reflect on their own situation with helpful prompts. In doing all this you may well be helping a man or woman grow more like Jesus Christ – which can’t be bad way to invest your years of active retirement.

Do you have an experience of mentoring to share? Then please do so in response to this blog or on our Facebook page.

If you’ve found this blog helpful please share it using the links below. Thank you.

Dave Fenton is a retired clergyman spending his after-work time lecturing at Moorlands College, building relationships and sharing his faith at his local golf club, and escaping to a cliff-top caravan in Cornwall where his seven grandchildren enjoy the local surfing beach.

Want to do well in the transition out of fulltime work? Here’s the 5 key steps.

The transition from fulltime work is like moving to a country you have never visited. With the changes involved likely to be far greater than you could ever imagine.

In theory, every day becomes a Saturday. But such unstructured time, with seemingly endless opportunities, is not as easy to navigate as you might imagine.

So if you are heading towards the world of no longer working fulltime, or are already there, here are 5 key steps to keep in mind.

1.Take a breather

This is something I wish I’d done. It was so easy to slip from a demanding work environment into an almost equally busy existence – with not enough thought as to what was going on.

Like many others, I soon found myself thinking, ‘I’m busier now than when I was working’. But is that really a good thing to just drift into?

Perhaps the biblical idea of ‘Jubilee’ has something to teach us. One year in fifty is a fallow year (Leviticus 25:11). We may not all be farmers but we will have worked for close to fifty years. So taking a year out – or even a few months – would seem a sensible way to recharge, process the change and define what you are and what you do.

But this kind of Jubilee ought to involve much more than watching endless daytime TV? A good start may be to pray – to thank God for your working years, however hard they may have been. And asking him to guide you into and through the next phase of life.

2.Make an inventory

As the dust settles on the old start listing down –

  • The things you’ll miss from the past
  • Things you always wanted to do but work got in the way
  • Dreams you might now be able to fulfil
  • Your bucket list
  • The expectations others may have for you that will impact your decisions
  • The kind of legacy you want to leave behind
  • The abilities, expertise and wisdom you now have to offer

If you’ve never done some kind of gift analysis – exploring what you have to offer – this might be a good time to do one. An example is the Shape Test which will help you identify what your passions and gifts.

Sometimes this confirms what someone already knows. And sometimes it can produce a surprise or two.

3.See where you can be used

Without being presumptuous, it is likely that you will have some 10 years of active retirement to enjoy and invest. That will match around 20 per cent of what has been your working life. This may be longer than you ever spent in one particular job. So it is worth getting it right.”

Then it’s time begin exploring some opportunities that seem to match your gifts and passions. Keep in mind that you’ll be needing to replace the companionship you had in your fulltime working days. And also the fact that you had somewhere you were needed.

But commit to absolutely nothing until you’ve had a good look around. It’s easy to end up responding to every demand made of you. Now you have time there may be plenty of people who assume you now have time for what they have in mind. So, at the very least, make sure your passions and gifts are a good match for their requests.

For example, an accountant doesn’t now have to be either an auditor or a treasurer for every charity in their county. I had a friend who longed to dump many of his financial responsibilities. On the other hand you may want to use your professional skills in retirement years.

Don’t be too restrictive or humble about what you could do. Our church recently sent an 85 year old to visit an African hospital he had supported and prayed for over the years. He’d longed to visit but caring for his sick wife made it impossible.

However, when she died he was free to go and was so blessed by the new experience. So were we by his passion for mission when he returned.

4.Be available

Before your transition into ‘after-work’ your life was crowded and demanding – it had to be that way. But you now have space and time. Not least to be more available to God and to strengthen your relationship with him. Including, perhaps, reading books or listening to podcasts you never had time for.

Such availability need not be all God-centred. When a friend asked me what I was in to at the moment. I gave some good holy answers. But he challenged me to say something about an issue I was interested in. With my passion in military history I confessed I was looking into ‘luck’ in war. I’m still researching.

Being available, includes being available to others. If you have carved out time for reading and reflection then be prepared ‘sacrifice’ some of it for drop of the hat helping out moments. Your availability could be exactly what someone needs.

5.Consider your community

In the process of reviewing where your passions and abilities could be invested, do consider your community. Especially as so many social services have been cut, leaving many people vulnerable. It’s impossible for me to be prescriptive here but a look at the local Citizens Advice may show you something that needs doing and is a good match.

Or maybe, just call in on a lonely person down your street from time to time. To lift their spirits and remind them they are not forgotten.

Whatever you do, remember each of us – at work and in the years that follow – you Christ’s ambassador (2 Corinthians 5:20). And the words of Jesus remain true, ‘Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine you did it for me’ (Matthew 25:40).

Found this helpful? Then do please share it using the links below. And have your say here and on our Facebook page.

Dave Fenton

Dave is a retired clergyman spending his after-work time lecturing at Moorlands College, building relationships and sharing his faith at his local golf club, and escaping to a cliff-top caravan in Cornwall where his seven grandchildren enjoy the local surfing beach.

Are teenagers any of our business? Oh yes, says the Psalmist – and here’s 5 practical insights to do your best.

Trying to understand the behaviour and culture of today’s teens can be as challenging as attempting to eat jelly with chopsticks.

For that reason, it’s not surprising those of us who no longer have teenagers can feel we’ve done our bit and survived. So let’s leave it at that. But should it be how it is?

After all, what about the powerful words of the Psalmist – a promise and a command – that ‘We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power and the wonders he has done. He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our ancestors to teach their children, so the next generation would know them’. Psalm 78.4-6.

And there’s more here. Read on and we hear the positive and the negative consequences of our actions. If we do it right then they will ‘trust in God’ (v7) and ‘keep his commands’ (v7). While verse 8 gives us the negatives. Failure to engage produces a ‘stubborn and rebellious generation whose hearts are not loyal to God’.

Sorry, there’s no dodging it. But here’s some good news to encourage you. The findings of a new report about teens, The State of the Nation, from five Christian agencies, includes a significant finding.

Asked what made them feel good about themselves, more than 9 out of 10 said ‘my family’. They may not breeze up to you and ask for your opinion or help – but relationships need to be cultivated.

That means if you have teens within your family circle you are already ahead of the game. But our call to follow the instructions of the Psalmist doesn’t stop there and has huge implications in the context of church life. But how do we do it?

I’m not saying it is easy. We will not always get a listening ear or an acceptance of our perspective. However, that’s not a reason to chicken out.

With that in mind, here are 5 simple principles to help you give it your best shot.

  1. Listen, listen and listen. To put it bluntly, if we want to be heard we first have to listen – and listen hard.

    It can be a tough and confusing world for today’s teens. They need to know we at least want to understand what it’s like for them to live in an increasingly baffling world where ‘truth’ is a matter of opinion, peer pressure is huge, the environment charging towards it sell by date, and huge debt from a student loan beckons.
  2. Beware of the word ‘tell’. There’s a danger wrapped up in word ‘tell’; a danger which springs from today’s culture. In our day we were used to being ‘told’. Because that’s how education worked. But things have changed – dramatically. 

    Today, teens who need to hear have experienced an education based on investigation and questioning. This means we need to find ways to help them explore rather than poking them in the eye with ‘truth’. So don’t dismiss the value of floating questions in their direction for them to explore. But there is a telling that should be done which is to . . . .
  3. Speak of God in action. Note where the Psalmist says we are to start It’s not with hard facts or doctrinal statements. Rather, we are to tell them of ‘the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power and the wonders he has done’. 

    The implication is to be sure the next generation know what God has done for us. It is about our story and we need to have one.

    Forgive me for asking, but what exactly is it you are seeing God do for you today that causes you to praise his power and actions on your behalf? What is your own story; the story made possible because you are out to live your afterwork life to the full? That living story of a living God is where the communication begins.
  4. Don’t fudge what God expects. God’s statutes – what he expects of his people in the way they are to live, is also on the Psalmist’s agenda. But note, when God delivered his Commandments, he’d already giving the people good reason to praise his deeds and power – delivering them from slavery, parting the Red Sea, meeting their needs in the wilderness and more.

    If teens are to understand God’s Commandments they need to see they come from a God who wants the best for his people and has shown this in the way he acts. To use an old phrase – ‘it’s talking the talk and walking the walk’.

    More than that, it can be surprising to discover teens can welcome the clarity that comes from God’s instructions for living in contrast to the anything goes assumptions inflicted on them by the world around them.
  5. Buck the system. Churches don’t make it easy for us to share what God has done, and is doing, with other generations. That’s because in most churches there are groups for children, young people, men women and seniors. Often these groups are isolated. As a result, church operates as MULTI-generational with groups for all individual ages rather than INTER-generational which allows generations to mix together).

As a result, most of us in our later years rarely come across teenagers, let alone have the opportunity to talk with them about God and his wonders. What a loss that represents.

Which is why, if we are to fulfil the aspirations of the Psalmist, we need to work smart. Perhaps it’s something you could get your church leaders to face up to? Possible ways forward include.

  • Talk to a teenager in a church meeting – ask about their exams or where they’re heading, current issues or whatever
  • In your family, take a genuine interest in your teenagers Do you know what they are learning what floats their boat, what troubles them, and more? And be aware that statements such as ‘in my day ….’ are killers.
  • Pray regularly for a leader or group in your church and ask for prayer information.
  • Invite teens round for a meal and give them a belter. It may take a few goes at this but pray for interesting things to talk about and ask them what they think about the big issues.
  • Don’t assume all teenagers and culture ridden grunters.
  • If you have teenagers in church do what you can to see them fully integrated. A wise vicar used to ask ‘What CAN’T teenagers do in our church’ – the answer is ‘not a lot’. So rope them in.
  • Love them for who they are – even when they mess up. Because they will, just as we did.

It’s very easy to be critical of teenagers but the ones in our church or family come under the Psalm 78 command to pass on what’s true about God and his loving relationship with us.

I have worked with teenagers for over 50 years and sometimes they drive me crazy. But the overwhelming desire is to see them make sense of their world in a Biblical context. Let’s listen and love and help in any way we can.

Dave Fenton

Dave is a retired clergyman spending his after-work time lecturing at Moorlands College, building relationships and sharing his faith at his local golf club, and escaping to a cliff-top caravan in Cornwall where his seven grandchildren enjoy the local surfing beach.

What has your church done to make its teens more integrated into its life? Please share here or with our Facebook group.

Revealed: Why teens behave that way – and what you can do.

Beautiful granny and her granddaughter are doing selfie using a smart phone and smiling while sitting on couch at home

With teenagers often being a mystery to their parents, is it any wonder they can seem even stranger to grandparents.

But there’s something all three generations should know that could transform understanding and relationships. And afterwork grandparents have a vital role to play.

At the heart of the teenage problem is the way they can so often behave. Moody, depressed, rude, impulsive and distant. Taking unwise risks, having intense friendships. And staying hidden under the bed covers until well past lunchtime.

For years it’s been assumed that such behaviour was all down to puberty and hormones. But new and ground-breaking research tells a very different story.

The cause is all down to how teenage brains develop – or don’t’.

What’s been discovered is that a teenage brain is not a fully formed adult brain. And because the prefrontal cortex is still developing, teenagers are more likely than adults to rely on a part of the brain called the amygdala to make decisions and solve problems.

Why that’s an issue is because the amygdala is associated with emotions, impulses, aggression and instinctive behaviour. Get it?!

To put is simply, at their stage of life, teens are wired to behave in the ways that can seem so antisocial and destructive to those of us with ‘grown up brains’.

This vital discovery comes from the award-winning neuroscientist, Prof Sarah-Jayne Blakemore. And is set out in her ‘must read’ book Inventing Ourselves: The Secret Life of the Teenage Brain by Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore.

This book is far more than a piece of academic research. It’s also a plea for parents, grandparents and society as a whole for teenagers to be better understood and not simply treated as difficult, selfish or rebellious.

In a recent media interview, Prof Blakemore explained, ‘Brain scans and psychological experiments have now found that adolescence is a critical period of neurological change, much of which is responsible for the unique characteristics of adolescent behaviour.’

She added, ‘Far from being a defective or inferior version of an adult brain, the adolescent mind is both unique and beautiful. Teenagers are brilliant.’

Which is why, she argues, that while adolescence is a period of vulnerability, it is also a time of enormous creativity – one to be acknowledged, nurtured and celebrated.

In her book, Prof Blakemore also comes to the defence of the ‘lazy teenager’. She wants us to understand they are likely to stay in bed because they need more rest to cope with developmental stresses.

In addition, she stresses that, a teen’s body clock is different to an adults. To put it technically, our sleep/wake cycle is controlled by a part of the brain that regulates the synthesis of melatonin. And after puberty, melatonin is produced later at night, which is why adolescents buzz until late in the evening and struggle to get up in the morning

This means we should stop worrying about teenagers wanting to sleep in all morning. As the Prof puts it, ‘To regard them as lazy is as illogical and unfair as it would be to consider a two-year-old workshy for needing a midday nap.’

That sounds like a wakeup call (see what I did there?!) Parents and grandparents alike understand a toddlers’ sleep patterns, yet the particular needs of teenagers’ are largely ignored.

What can all this mean for those with teenage grandkids? For a start it points to making sure their parents are on the ball on this significant issue. And then playing whatever part they can in supporting parents as they –

Let teens take healthy risks. This is a way to help a child develop their own identity, explore grown-up behaviour, and move towards standing on their own feet.

Help teens find creative and expressive outlets for their feelings. Watching or playing sport or listening to or creating music, writing, drama and other art forms are good ways.

Talk with teens about their decisions. Cover the choices of action they may chose and what the consequences might me. Help them weigh up the positives and negatives.

Offer praise for good behaviour and reward it. Consistent affirmation is a key to these troubled years. As has been said, ‘look for opportunities to catch them out doing the right thing’.

Talk with your the teen about their developing brain. Do the best you can to help them understanding what is going on and why – and how special and remarkable they are.

Above all, don’t underestimate the significant role a grandparent can play in helping a teen navigate their difficult and challenging years. Or in supporting their parents while it is all happening.

Dave Fenton:

Dave is a retired clergyman spending his after-work time lecturing at Moorlands College, building relationships and sharing his faith at his local golf club, and escaping to a cliff-top caravan in Cornwall where his seven grandchildren enjoy the local surfing beach.

Warning. Three things not to miss this Christmas.


Never mind the Twelve Days of Christmas, beware of the Twelve Daze of Christmas. Because that’s what it can all too easily become.

A blur of advertising messages, busyness, and meeting the expectations of others can swamp us. And ‘it’s all over before you know it.

This can be especially true for those of us who’ve been around long enough to now be active and retired. Automatic pilot kicks in. Been there. Done that. Bought the Christmas jumper.

So here’s a little check list of three things we ought not to miss. Or, to put it another way, here’s some opportunities to grab with both hands.

1.Don’t miss those who are lonely

You’ll be hearing it on the radio and in the shops –that big past Christmas hit –‘Do they know its Christmas time at all?’

One of the most evocative lines of any Christmas number one reminds us that far too many will be adrift from the joy and friendship that’s wrapped up in the Christmas season.

Indeed, Christmas is the time the reality of loneliness can be painfully magnified when, seemingly, everybody else is having the time of their lives.

All of which provokes the question, ‘What small part can you play to reduce the experience of loneliness for just one person?’ The answer will be different for each of us. But can we do something?

For my own family, some of the best times have been when we have had an unexpected visitor with us. Like the Moroccan student who understood little of the meaning of Christmas and was even more confused when we went outside and threw snow at each other.

2.Don’t miss those who are hurting

Christmas has a way of stirring up painful memories for those now missing someone they love. If a bereavement is recent then this is understandable and we’ll be taking account. But it can equally be true for anyone facing a stark reminder that someone dear to them is not round the table.

It takes older and wiser heads to look out for the signs of pain. And a caring heart to come alongside and ‘be there’ for them. Who better than an after-worker – with their eyes and listening ears open – to respond.

However, a loved-one’s absence is not the only possible cause for hurt during the Christmas season. My most poignant Christmas memory was at our Christmas market when a man in a wheelchair said ‘I’m here to buy my wife her last Christmas present I’ll ever buy’. Knowing he was terminally ill, he wanted his wife to have a memory.

We took time to talk and pray with him. And now we see him as a constant reminder of the people to look out for.

Of all the wonders of Christmas, the most important thing for me is the people. And it is surely a time to look beyond the comfort and security of our homes and realise there is still a huge world of need out there.

3.Don’t miss the meaning of the season

This brings me back to my ‘automatic pilot’ concern. Those in the early stages of retirement can often have more responsibilities to distract them rather than less – children, grandchildren and even their parents.

That makes it hard – but even more important – to find some space to reflect. What better way than to wrap our minds round that profound Charles Wesley carol which has a sermon in every line.

Here it comes –to mull on and enjoy for the wonderful truths it carries. I’ve made some suggestions as to thoughts and responses you might have.

Hark the herald angels sing

Glory to the new born king

Worship is due to the son of God

Peace on earth and mercy mild

God and sinners reconciled

Pray for peace and new life for those who do not know Jesus 

Christ by highest heaven adored

Christ the everlasting Lord

Late in time behold him come

Offspring of the virgin’s womb

A brilliant description of the real Jesus

Veiled in flesh the godhead see

Hail the incarnate deity

Jesus is both man and God

Pleased as man with man to dwell

Jesus our Emmanuel

The living Word came and dwelt among us

Mild he lays his glory by

Born that man no more may die

Born to raise the sons of earth

Born to give them second birth

            From glory he came to give us new life in him

Here’s to a happy, caring and Christ-centred Christmas.

Dave Fenton

Dave is a retired clergyman spending his after-work time lecturing at Moorlands College, building relationships and sharing his faith at his local golf club, and escaping to a cliff-top caravan in Cornwall where his seven grandchildren enjoy the local surfing beach.

What way have you found to make Christmas special for others? Please share here or with our Facebook group.

So what’s wrong with acting your age?

We almost certainly said it to our children – maybe not always helpfully, ‘Act your age’ perhaps adding ‘not your shoe size!’ But at times I feel the need to give a similar message to some active retired people.

In my days in youth ministry, it was sad when my 50-year-old colleagues were dressing like teenagers. They may have felt they looked cool but the reality was they looked more than slightly strange.

In much the same way, I now meet those in their 70s who claim they are far too young to rock up to anything for designed for retired people or even to hang out with them.

True, age can be as much to do with your attitude and state of mind as it is the level of your body’s decay. But, it seems to me, there are those who cannot bear to be designated ‘old’.

My message is ‘face up to reality and embrace the age you are. Put your birth certificate above your mantelpiece and reflect what it says in your choices and attitude’.

God brought me into the world in 1943 – definitely a vintage year! Where’s the problem with living with that reality? This is who I am – how God made me and the best thing I can do is to serve Him as I am, not how I wish or imagine myself to be.

For our parents’ generation retirement meant resting after years of working. But now people are asking what to do with their lives. Their answer is sometimes limited to golf, short tennis, walking football, line dancing or Saga cruises.

There’s nothing wrong with any of those. It’s great that the retired and active have the health and income to engage in a great variety of activities for many more years than those retiring in the past. Bit this means there’ll be a peer group around to share their lives for the next few decades, including sharing the relevance of Jesus.

In which case, as the old fashioned Wayside Pulpit asks, ‘What on earth are you doing for heaven’s sake?’ Act your age – join up with your fellow retirees and do something that grows God’s kingdom. What is wrong with being 74 and hanging out with other 74 year olds?

Those who are retired and active are one of a church’s greatest resources. But that’s only true if they make themselves available – as those committed to being part of God’s plan for themselves and for others.

We really can’t say ‘I’ve done my bit’. Retirement – what’s been called ‘my time to be selfish’ is a social construct not a biblical norm. No! Let’s accept the challenge ahead – rejoicing in the opportunities.

This is no time to sit in an armchair wishing you were young again but it is your moment to ask God to shape your new world as you work with others in your church and community.

When I watch cricket I get itchy fingers, wishing I was on the field again. I can still hit a ball but the challenge of a quick single over 18 yards is beyond me. But that’s no reason to retire from activity completely. So I’ve turned to golf and am enjoying accepting my limitations and re-adjusting my expectations. I hope you’re doing something of the same – by joining in with the glorious band of your fellow retirees and serving God together.

So if you are up for acting your age and need some ideas there’s a huge amount of ideas and resources waiting for you on our website at here.

Dave Fenton:

Dave is a retired clergyman spending his after-work time lecturing at Moorlands College, building relationships and sharing his faith at his local golf club, and escaping to a cliff-top caravan in Cornwall where his seven grandchildren enjoy the local surfing beach.

Do you have a ‘now I’m acting my age story’ to share? Then please do so in response to this blog or on our Facebook page.

It’s an epidemic it would not cost a penny to solve – loneliness. And you could be the medicine.

I’ve blogged before about the ‘Elinor Rigby’ epidemic of loneliness that’s doing such damage today. It’s the cause of millions of mostly elderly people being deprived of human contact for days on end – leading to poor health, depression and shortened lives.

In the past I’ve focused on the opportunity for churches to respond. But churches are made up of individuals – like you – who could do so much to bring joy and warmth to someone who is lonely.

Who are those in need?

Official UK figures say some 9 million people are lonely. This includes –

  • About half a million people are often going for more than a week without seeing anybody.
  • About 200,000 older people have not spoken to a friend or relative in more than a month.
  • Many of those receiving regular visits from care workers get no more than 15 minutes of their time – with a survey showing 500,000 pensioners received visits so brief that staff didn’t even speak to them.

All it takes is a little of your time

This epidemic would not cost a penny to solve. It just needs the time of those who care – even just an hour a week.

The need is for troops on the ground. Those who care enough and with time enough to each play a part. And those no longer in fulltime employment have a God-given opportunity to step up.

If every ‘retired and active’ person found just one lonely person to visit, the love of Christ could be shared with many who are feeling that life has lost a lot of its meaning.

How to get started? Here are 5 simple ways –

  1. Seek out a lonely person in your street or nearby
  2. Talk to your church leaders about elderly church members in need of visitors
  3. Contact nearby retirement homes, asking if there are those who seldom have visitors
  4. Check with your local services to see what needs you could meet
  5. Contact agencies like Age Concern and offer to visit those known to them

Simple ways to get it right

To make the most of your time that will mean so much to a lonely person here are things to keep in mind –

  • Relationships take time to develop trust and openness. So don’t be surprised if your Initial approaches may be tense and difficult.
  • The person you are visiting may be depressed as this can result from a lack of human contact.
  • No two elderly people are the same. Some may find conversation difficult. Others could talk for England.
  • If they are expecting a visit, make sure you turn up.
  • Get them to tell their story.
  • Don’t expect them to remember every detail of your last conversation – or even your name.
  • Take your grandchildren with you. A recent TV documentary revealed the benefit of elderly people being with children regularly.
  • Be careful about what you offer. An occasional cake is fine but don’t be over-lavish and so create wrong expectations.

There’s something in it for you too 

Our faith is built on relationship to God – and also on relationships with others. It’s easy for our circle to become closed – the faithful who gather with us every Sunday.

Here’s the opportunity to open it out – and be enriched yourself in the process.

For an overview of the loneliness issue please see our web page on The Lonely.

David Fenton

Dave is a retired clergyman spending his after-work time lecturing at Moorlands College, building relationships and sharing his faith at his local golf club, and escaping to a cliff-top caravan in Cornwall where his seven grandchildren enjoy the local surfing beach.

Do you have an experience about visiting someone who is lonely? Do share it here or on our Facebook group.

If only every church did these 6 things for their actively retired members.

Unlike their parents’ generation, today’s retirees are ready for a lot more than pruning the roses. Most have the health, energy and desire to maximise the years ahead. And their church could play a big part in them making the transition and living life to the full.

What could and should be done? Here are the big 6.

1. Realistic expectations

Don’t assume someone no longer in full time work will have lots of hours to spare. Reality can be very different.

Three generations of their family may have expectations and demands on their time – their children, their grandkids and their elderly parents. Rather than being able to contribute a little extra, they may need special care and support.

At the same time, they are likely to have plans for all those things that were impossible until now and they have worked so hard for.

2.  Seeing them as a distinct group within the church

Those ‘retired and active’ are likely to fall between those on one hand who prefer tradition and reflection, and people who enjoy energetic children’s action songs on the other! They are a distinct demographic many having grown up in the faith under the influences of the likes of Spring Harvest, New Wine, Alpha and Christianity Explored.

Almost certainly your church has programmes for children, youth, families, the elderly, and so on. Those in their active after-work years are actually another defined segment.

A great way forward is to put together –

  • A small group responsible for creating and arranging their own programme
  • A simple mission and vision statement about why the aim of such ministry and what the outcome should be
  • A budget line in the church accounts to support it!

3. Offering activities they need

The kind of initiatives that will help actively retired people flourish include:

  • Spending time with their peers socially: This needs to be no more than a few activities that have their focus on learning from each other – a walk, ten-pin bowling, a bike ride, a trip somewhere. And it should look nothing like a programme for the elderly.
  • Addressing relevant issues: Perhaps an event on the issues of stress or loss of status – followed by discussion. Or an annual ‘Heading for Retirement’ evening/day to help equip your people for what’s coming their way.
  • Developing a ‘buddy’ system: For those who want it, a seasoned retiree matched up with a newbie can be a great asset.

4.Don’t use them – develop them

Look for ways to release their experience, wisdom and gifts. This could involve creating a list of the workplace skills of your retirees that could be drawn on.

It also means thinking differently. Instead of first defining a role and then looking for someone to fill it, start by discovering the gifts and abilities waiting to be used and find a role that fits them.

Imagine the benefit of having –

  • A customer service ex-professional improving all the ‘touch points’ your church has with its members and community
  • An of entrepreneur or two thinking outside the box about what could be done with your premises or programmes
  • A market researcher developing an online survey to identify what your members see as their greatest needs
  • A well-read person helping you research facts, stories to enrich your preaching

5. Encourage them to be salt and light

Understandably, for a leader, the priority is likely to be meeting the needs of your church. But Jesus calls us to be ‘salt and light’, and with the present welfare cuts and social needs, there are ample opportunities for involvement.

This may be in the context of your church. Or a wider opportunity that will help to influence your community and cause your retirees to strengthen their faith.

Support and pray for them in whatever ‘salt and light’ role they take up, just as you do missionaries and those with other ministries.

6. Help them reach their peers

It is a well-established church principle that like attracts like. Mostly we think of this in relation to reaching youth but its equally valid for the retired and active generation, in view of their distinct culture, life experiences and present status.

This is an exciting opportunity that more and more churches are waking up to. There’s helpful thinking already in place about reaching the retired and active.

If you’re eager to understand more about the after-work generation, do check out the Church Leaders section on our website.

Do you have ideas or experiences relating to church leaders and the retired and active generation? Please comment here. Or join our FaceBook community and share them.

David Fenton

Dave is a retired clergyman spending his after-work time lecturing at Moorlands College, building relationships and sharing his faith at his local golf club, and escaping to a cliff-top caravan in Cornwall where his seven grandchildren enjoy the local surfing beach.

Join the fight against loneliness – someone has to.

Would you spare an hour a week to help someone who’s lonely?

I ask because there’s an epidemic out there that’s not only contributing to depression and reducing people’s health but also shortening their lives. It’s loneliness. Vast numbers of mainly older people, living for days and even weeks with no meaningful human contact.

This epidemic wouldn’t necessarily cost a penny to solve. What’s really needed is for caring people to pledge to give a little time on a regular basis. And with those no longer working full time being among those best placed to help.

How big is the problem?

Official UK figures classify some 9 million people as lonely. That includes about half a million who often go more than a week without seeing anybody. And about 200,000 older people who haven’t spoken to a friend or relative for over a month.

Those affected are mostly in their later years. Shockingly, more than half of all over-75’s see themselves as ‘chronically lonely’. At the same time, over 8 out of 10 young adults who live with a disability are feeling lonely every day.

These chilling numbers represent a vast variety of circumstances.

Their loneliness might be due to losing a spouse or partner. Even though, in the past, conversation hadn’t always flowed, at least there was someone else in the house. Now it’s all very quiet, except for the TV.

People become lonely through the loss of other family members, and friends. For others the cause may be a loss of mobility – they can no longer drive, and public transport is either inaccessible, especially in rural areas, or simply too much of a challenge.

The result is a vast number of fearful and distressed individuals living all around us. Their nagging fears include, ‘What would I do if I fell and couldn’t get up?’ ‘How can I make sense of my utility bill with all its different tariffs?’ And much else.

How is it damaging lives?

Doctors are now saying loneliness can do as much damage to health and life-span as smoking or obesity. It’s as bad for someone’s health as 15 cigarettes a day and twice as harmful as obesity,

The damage is not only physical. Loneliness reduces the brain’s ability to work as it should. It becomes ever harder to remember, concentrate, or even make every day decisions.

What can be done?

The size and scale of this issue can be seen in that the UK now has the world’s first Minister for Loneliness – appointed in June 2018 – to look at public policy that can address the issue.

Good as that is, the need is for troops on the ground. Those who care enough and with time enough to each play a part.

Could you and your church help people like this who live in your neighbourhood? Practical ideas to help make that happen will be in a future blog. But meanwhile, check out some great advice here: How to be a Visitor and Befriender

Dave Fenton:

Dave is a retired clergyman spending his after-work time lecturing at Moorlands College, building relationships and sharing his faith at his local golf club, and escaping to a cliff-top caravan in Cornwall where his seven grandchildren enjoy the local surfing beach.

Do you have a story of how the problem of loneliness is being addressed by an individual or a church? Then do share it in response to this blog or on our Facebook page.

Since when did the end of paid work mean the end of being salt and light?

Please forgive me for being blunt. But I’ve seen it far too often. Paid work comes to an end and people put their discipleship feet up as well.

In which case, please let me ask you a simple question.

Now you are in your ‘after-work’ days, how are you doing in response to Jesus’ expectation for you to be the ‘salt and light’ this world desperately needs?

Because that’s what Jesus told his followers they were to be – ‘salt and light’. And he did not add ‘until you get your P45’. So, on a scale of 1 to 10, how salty are you being in your new era? And how bright is your light shining?

Come on, honestly! These next years are a precious gift from God to you. How are you going to invest them – especially in view of what Jesus said to his first followers? One Bible translation expresses his words like this:

‘You are to be light, bringing out the God-colours in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. It shines out with hope’. The Message.

This is not a suggestion, but a firm and clear expectation. Of course it’s ok to enjoy well-earned relaxation and new experiences after a lifetime of work. But it’s not ok to also lose our flavour or hide our lamp in the process.

In fact, with full-time work behind us, there are even more opportunities to flavour the lives of others and hold up a light that shows the way. And so to make a Christian difference in our family, our church and our community.

What being ‘salt and light’ looks like

Salt: This little white stuff not only adds flavour to food but has great properties of healing and preserving. In the same way, Jesus says, our lives should enrich those around us and makes life better and more wholesome.

Light: We take light for granted – it’s always there when we need it. But in Jesus’ day powered by oil lamps rather than electricity they depended on a cluster of lights from houses on a hill to point travellers to where they could find shelter, safety and hospitality.

This is what God calls us to be – at every stage of life. It means taking the salt out of the packet and putting the light where it is needed. But how? Here are three simple ways to intentionally be salt and light.

1.By being: In the same way salt imparts seasoning, we are to enrich those around us by the way we live. By ‘being there’ and living Jesus’ way, we can humbly help people to see a better way to live.

2.By speaking: There will be occasions when living right is not enough and words are needed. Ideally in answer to questions provoked by the quality of the life we are trying to lead. At other times, our voice will be one of wisdom, or love, or compassion.

3.By serving: Jesus’ words could not be clearer –being salt and light involves action so that our ‘deeds shine out for all to see, so everyone will praise your heavenly Father’.

This offers those of us who are retired and active an inexhaustible set of opportunities. Some will be in our day-to-day lives. Others will mean taking decisive action. This might be through –

Your church – from being a Street Pastor to helping at a food bank. From offering debt counselling to assisting with a night shelter during the winter. For lots of ideas see our web page Your Church.

Your community – from volunteering in a local charity shop to being a local counsellor. From visiting those who are lonely to buddying with an adult with learning disabilities. For lots of ideas see our web page Your Community.

Overseas – from short-term volunteering to raising funds for those in need. From praying for a missionary, to sending out home comforts to enjoy. And more. For lots of ideas see our web page Internationally.

Far from it being ‘game over’ when retirement comes, it should be ‘game on’. The opportunities to live as Jesus had in mind are endless – and far too good to miss.

Dave Fenton

Dave is a retired clergyman spending his after-work time lecturing at Moorlands College, building relationships and sharing his faith at his local golf club, and escaping to a cliff-top caravan in Cornwall where his seven grandchildren enjoy the local surfing beach.

Do you have something to say about Salt and Light? Then do please add your comment. We’d love to hear from you.

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How to balance church and life when full-time work has gone – 4 key steps

They say there’s a similarity between a helicopter and a church – get too close to either and you’ll be sucked into the rotas.

This danger – so far as church is concerned – is even greater when fulltime work ends. You have the time. The church has the need. Before you know it you are busier than when on a pay roll.

That may be a good thing, and it may not be.

So here’s 4 key things to help you make the most of your church commitment in your after-work years.

1. Be realistic. Don’t let your mind or your church tell you that all your new ‘free time’ belongs to them. Just because you can do it does not mean you should do it.

In the same way you once aimed for a work/life balance, you may well now need a church/life balance. And in your new world of ‘freedom’ you may also have growing family pressures to take account of – grandchildren, frail parents and more.

Also, don’t be afraid to leave some space – for you and for others. A full diary is not a measure of godliness. And one great advantage of life after work is it can leave you free to step in when something unexpected comes up.

2. Be wise. OK, there is the potential to use your time, energy and abilities for, and through, your church in a way was not possible before. But your precious, God-given, time can only be spent once.

Before you put your name down for everything – or have it put down for you – make sure your time is being used for what you are best at rather than just filling a gap.

Think about what your past experience and present abilities equip you for in the service of your church. For inspiration, check out Using Your Life Skills

3. Don’t do ‘jobs’ do ‘ministry’. It is too easy to think ‘ministry’ is about church leadership and doing spiritual things – speaking, leading worship, praying and the like. But everything done in God’s service is ministry and can often be a ministry.
For example –

  • You can choose to be a Welcomer – or someone doing so while praying inwardly for those you greet and wanting them to see something of Jesus in you.
  • You can choose to serve coffee – or be someone doing so while looking out for new-comers and seeking to remember names and make contacts.
  • You can be on the crèche rota – or be someone doing so while actively engaging with new parents and welcoming and praying for the children and families in your care.

4. Have a servant heart. Along with the ‘nice’ jobs that might take your fancy are some grunge tasks that every church needs to have covered. This is all part of what St Paul speaks of as to ‘serve one another with love’.
To keep going, churches need unglamorous tasks to be undertaken by servants. To quote St Francis of Assisi, God calls us ‘to serve and not to count cost’. Life after work may offer you opportunities to do exactly that.

Dave Fenton

Dave is a retired clergyman spending his after-work time lecturing at Moorlands College, building relationships and sharing his faith at his local golf club, and escaping to a cliff-top caravan in Cornwall where his seven grandchildren enjoy the local surfing beach.

For more wisdom, ideas, and resources for your ‘after-work life go to

The word retirement is not even in the Bible. What is taught in scripture is transition. There is nothing that says you work most of your life and then get to be selfish for the next 20 years"

Rick Warren, PurposeDrivenLife