Having a vocation, in response to God’s call, is not just for the young. Here’s how to find yours.

When that wonderful era of life after fulltime work arrives what should be its focus? Vacation or vocation? Two almost identical words yet with very different meanings. And why should it matter?

One – ‘vacation’ – points to a season when the focus is on ourselves. Take a break – a long one. Put ourselves first most of the time. Enjoy what we ‘deserve’.

The other – ‘vocation’ – points to what God calls us to. The word ‘vocation’ even comes from the Latin root vox, meaning ‘voice’ – giving it the sense of ‘what has called us to’.

It’s a stark difference that Jeff Haanen points to in his masterly book ‘An Uncommon Guide to Retirement’. And he brings the challenge not to fall for a ‘me centred’ retirement but to pursue the fulfilment and significance that comes from identifying and living out what God calls us to do in this season of opportunity.

When it comes to the issue of our ‘calling/vocation’ Jeff warns of the danger of falling for any of the four myths that seem to prevail. He says –

1. It’s wrong to believe ‘my calling is to do what I love’. That may be true for some, but for some it may be a call to suffer – just as Moses was called from the tranquillity of herding sheep to confront Pharaoh and demand the freedom of his people.

To quote Jeff, ‘The biblical view of calling speaks to a much deeper satisfaction of following God in every circumstance, come what may.’

2. It’s wrong to believe ‘calling means getting my ideal job’. As Jeff says, ‘The “ideal job” ethos is actually elitist because it undermines work that is not done out of “passion”’ – which, of course, is true for most people.

To quote Jeff again, ‘The road to deep freedom in retirement is found not in self-actualisation (fulfilment of one’s talents and potentialities) but in self-surrender’.

3. It’s wrong to believe ‘calling is a life-stage’. There’s no biblical support for splitting life into the three stages of calling: 1. Youth and education. 2. Career. 3. Retirement. More than that, Jeff asserts, with people now living longer and healthier, ‘lives, relationships, and work will become more fluid’.

4. It’s wrong to believe ‘conversations about calling are just for 20 year olds’. In his experience, Jeff has found ‘the second most common time people ask deeper questions about purpose, job choice and meaning’ is in their later years.

So if that’s the myths kicked into touch, how can we best hear God’s voice and be clear of our calling in this afterwork stage of life?

It’s not all about checking what skills you have stresses Jeff but, rather, where you fit in to God’s purposes and plans. And about what should change from your working life and what should stay the same.

The way forward, Jeff proposes, is to gather trusted friends and family to explore the following questions.

1. What is God doing in the world today that captures your imagination

What’s good out there that you want to get behind? When need presses your button? What’s broken that could be fixed or is missing and waiting being created?

2. Who are you?

Understanding yourself is a big part of figuring out your calling. If you’d like to use a helpful ‘vocational power assessment’ tool here’s a link. The idea behind it is that we each have more ‘power’ than we are aware of.

3. What stage of life you are in

Older adulthood – active retirement – is the season of letting go in order to bless and offer wisdom to the coming generation, asserts Jeff. It’s a move from player to coach.

4. What are your circumstances?

The call is for ‘reality in a hope-filled way’ says Jeff. Take time to make an inventory of your income, relationships, interests, talents, limitations and opportunities. Because this is the context in which to identify and can carry out your calling.

Jeff helpfully points out that Jesus chose not to do ‘everything’. There were those he healed and thousands he didn’t; towns he visited and others he didn’t. Because of his calling he was able to say ‘no’ and that will serve us too.

5. What’s the cross you’ve been called to bear?

What have been the life experiences that have shaped and formed you? Especially those seasons of deep pain. With God, nothing is wasted and it is these things that give you wisdom and insights that are of value to others.

6. What are you afraid of?

This is a surprising question but, to Jeff, one not to be shunned. Fears of death, loneliness, becoming irrelevant, failing health, not having enough money – and more – can all serve to paralyse us.

‘Name them’, says Jeff. ‘Offer them to God and hear him say ‘Don’t be afraid for I am with you to the very end of the age’. Isa 41.10 Matt 28.16-20

To be honest, what you’ve just read only skims the surface of the rich thinking on calling and vocation in Jeff Haanen’s excellent book ‘An Uncommon Guide to Retirement’. And there’s much more there to enrich and encourage you in your after work years

You’ll also find more on how God can use these years on the AfterWorkNet website page Opportunities.

What thoughts or questions has this generated for you? Please share them here or on the AfterWorkNet Facebook community

If you think this blog would be helpful to others please share using the links below.

Due to Covid-19, many are Googling ‘prayer’ and seeking comfort. Here’s a simple way to respond. 

When Google searches for ‘prayer’ skyrocket – as they have – you can be sure something is happening. And it is. Which calls for Christians to do more than sit on our hands and be thankful.

This increase in prayer has been revealed by extensive research in 75 countries by the University of Copenhagen. And is one of many examples of a fresh openness to God from among those who have tended to politely ignore him.

The good news is there’s a simple yet profound way each one of us can reach out to those becoming more open to considering God in the equation of life.

That simple thing is ACORN – of which more in a moment. But first let’s be aware of how the mood is changing due to the impact of Covid-19. Eyes have been opened to the reality that –

  • Life is not guaranteed.
  • We are not masters of our own destiny.
  • Life is fragile and death more real than we would wish.

This has not only generated a mass of Google searches for ‘prayer’. Also –

  • Politicians and celebrities have spoken more about ‘prayer’ during the past weeks than they have done in a lifetime.
  • The rainbow has become a symbol of hope – appearing in thousands of windows and other public places.
  • The NHS app for volunteers has been called GoodSam with a clear nod towards the Good Samaritan.
  • The Queen has spoken of the reality of the resurrection of Jesus and the hope this offers for all.

All this has led to many reaching out to a hither to ‘unknown God’ – seeking help, comfort and answers to questions they may have never had before.

We must take this missional opportunity

This all presents us with the opportunity to be ‘on mission’ by being active partners with God in this new situation. Doing so to touch lives and grow in faith ourselves.

This is something I and others have been doing with encouraging outcomes over the past weeks – using a simple approach I call ACORN. It’s a spiritual practice for such a time as this. And a way to reach out when physical contact is not possible.

It is something I’m encouraging you and your church to do also.

ACORN is a mnemonic with each letter standing for a step in the process. You’ll find it all set out on this short video – How to Keep a Locked-down Church on Mission. Please watch it and share it as widely as you can.

In essence, the following is what’s involved. This is what every church leader could encourage their members – young and old – to do each day during the lockdown. And please don’t miss that this is as much about helping Christians grow as disciples as it is about helping others come to faith.

A is for Ask: Each day simply and prayerfully ask God ‘is there somebody I’m being nudged to connect with – to reach out to – today?’

C is for Call: This is God’s response to our question. His ‘call’ is for us to respond to the name that may come immediately or later by way of a sense that this is his nudge to us.

O is for Obey: Our response may be through a phone call or any of the now well-recognised ways from Skype to Facetime to WhatsApp to SMS and more. The first step need be as simple as asking ‘How are you doing?’ and really listening to the answer.

And all the while remembering this conversation is as the result of what God has prompted to happen and being open to offering prayer either with them or for them.

R is for Report: Share with a Christian friend what God has done in this situation – even if it seems to be a very small step. Share what happened – much like the disciples reported back to Jesus when sent on mission.

N is for Notice God: Reflect on what God has done in and through us. In the past we may have been too busy to listen to God’s voice and respond. But now, with God having our full attention, we may notice that God has used us and helped us grow in obedience and faith.

There are two notable things about acorns. First, they need fertile soil to grow – and we now have this in our communities.

Second, though an acorn is small and seemingly insignificant, it can grow into something big and beautiful – with patience and care.

Michael Harvey

What is your experience of seeing God prompt you and use you to engage with others in this time of lockdown? Please share it here or on the AfterWorkNet Facebook community

Michael Harvey is a co-founder of Back to Church Sunday. He’s developed the concept of invitation as a mission tool across seventeen countries – helping churches adopt a culture of invitation.

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.

Flip-flops, peppermints and lollipops. Actively retired people are using them all to demonstrate God’s love.

At an hour when older people are likely to be safely tucked up in bed, a select number are roaming the streets, armed with flip-flops, peppermints, lollipops and love.

These Good Samaritans are ready, as clubs and pubs spill customers onto the streets of some 300 town and city centres on Friday and Saturday nights. They are Street Pastors and Street Angels – two similar initiatives fulfilling the motto ‘Caring, Listening, Helping’. Though teams are all-age, many volunteers are of retirement age.

This includes Sian Evans who retired looking for more than a weekly stint in the community village shop. Firmly believing ‘God wants us to enjoy what we do’ and eager to show his love practically beyond the church walls, she became a regular Street Angel. Now watching out for young adults in the early hours who may have painted the town of Carmarthen a bit redder than was wise!

Then there’s Andrew Miller, previously a hospital doctor. His workplace departure coincided with an increasing realisation that’ the Kingdom of God is very much about the present, not just the future’. So training as a Street Pastor seemed a great way of being salt and light in his city of Oxford.

Sian, Andrew and their teams go out well prepared. Space blankets for the shivering. Flip flops for previously high-heeled girls now barefoot and at risk from broken glass. Lollipops, remarkably effective in diffusing confrontations.

Plus peppermints. Because standard practice when someone throws up, Andrew explains, is to offer water to swill around and then a peppermint to suck.

They also help by pointing out the nearest cash point; spending time with distressed people; sometimes calling 999 for collapsed/drunk individuals – and recharging mobiles.

Typically, things hot up after midnight. Sian says, ‘My heart goes out to these people.’  She’s often dealt with minor injuries. ‘Once I had to clean a very drunk lady’s face. She’d been hit with a glass and was hurling abuse at passers-by.’

They never finish before 2.30am, often not until 4. But Sian points out, ‘when you’re retired you can lie in as long as you want.’ Each shift covers some ground. Two Oxford volunteers have apps that once recorded walking over seven miles, all at conversation-friendly ambling speed.

And the God-dimension in all this? Sian quotes the verse, ‘For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing’. She says, ‘It’s like the old advert. The savoury smell drifts by and people said ‘Ahh, Bisto’. I think we can be a bit like that.’

Interestingly, Andrew remembers a team member’s similar comment, ‘Tonight we may not have shared Christ’s words, but we spread His aroma’.

For Andrew it’s being like the Good Samaritan who helped someone totally different to himself without telling him what to believe.’ Street Pastors and Angels aren’t there to preach. ‘But we’re often asked who we are, what motivates us’, he says. ‘And how come we’re not paid?’

Is this recommended for others in active retirement? ‘Yes’, assures Sian, ‘It’s for anyone willing to try something a bit different that’s fun and rewarding. You can choose when to serve and being older is useful because when we’re bossy they don’t take offence’

With a smile she adds, ‘Where else are you going to learn how to Floss at 3 o’clock in the morning?’

As a measure of the difference such involvement makes, it’s estimated Street Pastors and Street Angels will save the NHS £13 million during the festive period by diverting drunks from A&E. And Wrexham police saw violent crime and anti-social behaviour halved since the volunteers have patrolled the town centre.

Check out Street Pastors and Street Angels. It could be for you.

Are you a Street Pastor or Street Angels with a story to share? Please do so here or on our AfterWorkNet Facebook group. Thank you.

You can share this blog with others using the links below.

Peter Meadows

Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director. He’s still working part time in his 70s, helping churches and resourcing inter-church initiatives. This is alongside enjoying his eight grandchildren, escaping to Spain and spending his kids’ inheritance.

How will you be remembered? What 5 things do you hope will be said at your funeral?

Hopefully, it will not be soon when you or I have people saying things about us at our funeral. But one day it will happen. And I wonder what they’ll say about us.

And, though such an occasion is some way ahead, it’s important to realise that what’s happening right now is going to shape such conversations.

This came home to me recently when marking the passing of a much loved 82-year-old friend. He was renowned for all he had quietly achieved for God’s kingdom and was also regarded as a wonderful ‘uncle’ to scores of young people.

Having never married, and with few family members of his own, this man was unfailingly interested in what the children of his many friends were doing. And was automatically invited to weddings, birthday celebrations, family lunches and the like.

He served on countless boards of Christian agencies and was a stalwart member of his local church. Most of all he was a faithful friend and huge fun to be with.

You and I may not have such a track record of achievement – just like the 400 people who came to his Thanksgiving Service. As I listened to the tributes to his life and character, I couldn’t help musing on what people will say when it’s my turn.

Like you, I hope to be presented in the best possible light – with any annoying characteristics quickly skated over. Perhaps with a gentle joke here and there!

However, this will also be an opportunity for others to assess the kind of person I’ve been and how faithfully I’ve tried to serve the Jesus I committed my life to.

I found myself reflecting about the attitudes and lifestyle needed while we’re still alive if we want positive things to be said when we’ve gone. And here’s my own wish list, which might get you thinking too.


This big word covers much more than how I use my money. Am I ready and willing to show hospitality, spend time and effort on behalf of others, give people the benefit of the doubt, forgive and forget.


Bible passages such as Ephesians 6 listing the fruit of the Holy Spirit, 2 Corinthians 13 describing love and Colossians 3 reminding us of how Christians should live show up the areas that need might need my attention.

Qualities like patience, self-control and humility are tough to keep centre-stage. We can’t develop them without confessing our weaknesses and asking God to help us. So am I doing that?


It’s very easy to be in default ‘complain’ mode, especially as we grow older and face fresh challenges. But thankfulness to God is part and parcel of a healthy prayer-life, with this attitude overflowing in our relationships with others.

It’s about me aiming to see the good in others and appreciate the blessings of each day – however small.


O God, please help me not to become a grumpy old woman!

5.Good company

Our friend had been great to be with because he was so interested other people’s lives. My lesson here is that as we grow older, and our world starts to contract, how vital it is to do whatever it takes to enjoy the company of others. And go out of our way if possible to make them feel special.

That’s my list. What’s yours?

You will never know what’s said when that day comes. But it does seem it’s well worth living as though we just might possibly do so.

If you have found this helpful please share it using the links below.

Celia Bowring
Celia isn’t retired yet – although she’s recently changed from being office-based to working from home. Celia writes the CARE Prayer Diary along with many other resources. She also chairs Pray for Schools. And loves being a hands-on grandmother.

The modest pension pot of a 56-year old pastor led to housing 1,000 homeless people. It’s a remarkable story.

At first sight you’d never imagine 76-year old Pastor Pete Cunningham to be someone bringing hope and housing to over 1,000 formerly homeless people.

Pete seems so unassuming and ‘ordinary’. Looking more like Captain Birdseye than a ground-breaking deliverer of shelter for those once on the streets.

Yet that is exactly what Pete is. And his remarkable and inspiring story involves some very interesting conversations between him and God.

Faced with the heart-breaking problem of so many living on the streets in his Southport community, some 20 years ago, Pastor Pete prayed. And the answer, he told me was, ‘God made clear he wants the church to eradicate homelessness, starting with Merseyside.’

‘But I argued with him’, Pete admitted. ‘There was no way of raising the money to meet such a great need. And anyway, these people would probably wreck any place they were given – with graffiti and smashing things up.’

But the issue just would not go away. The homeless where still there. And God kept ‘nagging’.

So, age 56 and at a time in the normal run of things he would have been planning his retirement, Pete did the unthinkable. He cashed in his £6,000 pension pot. And, with contributions from two others, purchased a couple of flats.

Which is how the life-changing Christian social enterprise Green Pastures was born.

Because of Pete’s simple act of obedient sacrifice, today there are –

  • Over 1,000 formerly homeless people with a place to live
  • Ten new beds becoming available each month
  • 150 participating churches helping make this happen
  • £25 million available to buy properties as the result of 1,040 loan stock investors
  • A fifth of residents growing in their Christian faith

At the heart of it all is someone who not only sacrificed their pension pot but is living their years of active retirement to the full. Now 76, and still going for broke, its clear how Pete has drawn on his work-life experience to now serve others.

Used what he had – plus God

Thanks to his early employment in the London Shares Market, Pete was able to identify the distinct investment model that is at the heart of Green Pastures’ success. It involves guaranteeing investors a return of up to 5 per cent per annum with their money used to finance the next purchase.

Then, as a pastor, Pete learned how to care for people, hear God’s voice, and share the good news of the gospel in word and deed.

Today Pete’s conviction remains that God doesn’t want anyone sleeping on the streets of the UK and expects Christians to sort it out.

‘To put it bluntly,’ Pastor Pete says, ‘Jesus commissioned the church, not the government. Christians may say they pay their taxes so the government should sort it. But the Bible has numerous accounts of the church of God stepping in and we should do the same today. God wants the church to end homelessness.’

And the need is not just people who have been forced into sleeping rough. There are also the ‘unseen’ homeless that need help.

Pete points to the thousands of extremely vulnerable people staying in rundown, overcrowded temporary accommodation. He told me, ‘Families are often broken up. And unless they are reconciled, where they can look after themselves, the children are likely to become young people who go off the rails. So we must we get them into suitable, stable housing as soon as possible.’ 

A shining example

Pete is a shining example of an older person serving the Lord. He’s making an incredible difference in the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in our society. He’s the father of six children with thirteen grandchildren and still devotes himself to the task God gave him.

At 76, Pete shows no signs of slowing down. He’s got big dreams for the future. Perhaps you could be part of them?

He challenges those with a financial cushion to consider becoming investors so that more people living on the streets can have a home. Through Green Pastures’ ethical investment programme properties are purchased for homeless people to be housed – and they also will be supported by local churches.

Or there’s a more hands-on approach, where those in their active after-work years offer their wisdom and skills in a church that signs up to help and provide volunteers.

Pastor Pete believes that if enough churches joined in, homelessness could indeed be eradicated.  Based on his example, you have to believe him.

For more about this remarkable initiative and the stories of lives changed through it, see Green Pastures.

If you have found this helpful please share it using the links below.

Celia Bowring

Celia isn’t retired yet – although she’s recently changed from being office-based to working from home, so working out her own use of time. Celia writes the CARE Prayer Diary along with many other resources. She also chairs Pray for Schools. And loves being a hands-on grandmother!

Susan didn’t expect her retirement years would involve doing crafts with homeless women. This is her story.

When I retired, I knew I wanted to do some sort of voluntary work. Maybe something like tidying the countryside or signposting at a health centre. But three years ago, I went to a London City Mission supporters’ coffee morning.

There Lynne, one of the missionaries, spoke about her work with women living in hostels. Afterwards we talked and she invited me to a craft session at the women’s hostel. And I’ve been involved ever since.

The room we meet in has a toaster, kettle and fridge so we can provide drinks and snacks. Usually around half a dozen women join us – quite hungry it seems as all the food disappears.

On the women’s birthdays, we’ll sing happy birthday and give them a cake and a card. Then we move on to our craft activities.

We sometimes use adult colouring books – it’s relaxing, calming, and the women seem to enjoy doing that. Some particularly like making cards which is great as I like doing crafts and hand-making cards.

Recently we’ve been doing a lot of painting in different forms. They have really enjoyed this and have been encouraged and surprised at what they can do. Last year the women exhibited their work at a cafe and are hoping to do so again this year.

The women are in the hostel with a view to moving on to independent living, but some of them have been there for years.

Many don’t have much in their lives. They tend to keep things hidden and seem to find it difficult to build relationships and to trust people.

I’ve learned I need to be quite thick-skinned – quite a few women have been vicious with their tongue or in other ways. I once asked a lady something I thought was friendly, but the answer she gave was quite hurtful. But it wasn’t just me she was attacking, other people got the same treatment. I think she just couldn’t cope with kindness.

Lynne and her colleague have a bubbly, positive attitude – I wish I had more of that. But I know even the missionaries can be discouraged at times because seeing fruit takes a long time.

Many are happy to hear about Jesus and God’s love, and to look at scripture. We’d like to see results more quickly than we do. But the problems these women face have often been years in developing, so change will not happen overnight. They need lots of love and encouragement.

People’s stories are often surprising. Some of the women have run their own businesses, until something went wrong. One of the ladies recently told me how she’d given her life to the Lord. She said she was a new person and now had a reason to get out of bed each day. That is why my being there for them on a regular basis is so important.

Volunteering has helped me see people differently, especially people sleeping on the streets. Christians should be the quickest to give people a second chance, and to show love that others may never have been shown before.

It’s taken me out of my comfort zone, as I’m not a particularly outgoing person, usually happy quietly helping out in the background. But I’m learning that if God is behind you, you can do things you never thought you could.

If me, why not you? Step out in faith and have a go!

Susan McGowan

Susan’s story first appeared in Premier Christianity magazine. To read four testimonies from Christians who’ve proved you’re never too old for mission, request a free sample copy of the latest print issue at here.

To explore a host of volunteer opportunities, see the AfterWorkNet web pages on Serving. And if you have an experience to share please do so here or with our Facebook Group. Thank you.

Most people miss this big reason why volunteering can be so life-transforming.

There’s a value to being a volunteer that you may have never thought of. I certainly hadn’t – until I saw the impact of Philip, in his 80s, on Jack, a troubled 12 year old.

It was an eye-opener. And I hope it will open your eyes too.

Oasis, the charity I founded and lead, had become responsible for a secondary school on a tough housing estate. Tough enough to have had a long history of having to exclude some of its most troubled and even violent students. Of which Jack was one.

Meanwhile, the elderly Philip was a member of a Methodist church in the same local community; a church which had closed due to declining attendance. However, Oasis had negotiated to use the building as an ‘inclusion base’ from Monday to Friday.

It’s an approach we often use to help students like Jack. Those who have suffered the trauma of neglect; who can’t function in a regular classroom due to their unsocial and sometimes violent behaviour and mood swings.

On offer was ‘sanctuary’ – an alternative educational provision for a small group of the most troubled students needing a calm and soothing environment. Every morning, instead of attending the main school building, they showed up at our new inclusion space.

It was on one of these mornings I dropped in to see how things were going. Where an Oasis staff member introduced me to Jack – who wouldn’t look into my eyes.

Later I learned the young man had a very difficult and complex family background, struggled with sudden mood swings and with a chronic inability to maintain attention.

A few minutes later Philip, a volunteer in his mid-80s, arrived. He came for an hour or so a couple of times a week to help things run smoothly.

I watched intrigued as the anti-social and disruptive Jack sauntered over to meet Philip – someone from an entirely different planet. Philip smiled. The normally surly Jack smiled back. They shook hands and walked off together to the kitchen.

I watched amazed and intrigued as Philip made them both a cup of tea. They sat and chatted for a while. Then wandered to the pool table where Jack set the game out and Philip handed him a cue.

As they played, an Oasis staff member whispered into my ear. ‘Philip’s great player. He will win. The problem is Jack has a history of not being able to cope with defeat. He finds it humiliating. He’s quite capable of switching suddenly and lashing out. But, just you watch.’

And, so it was. Philip – the aged Methodist – potted ball after ball until all that remained was to sink the black for victory. I watched as he hit it perfectly and it gently rolled into a corner pocket.

I waited for the reaction from Jack that seemed inevitable. But it didn’t come.

Instead of flying into a temper, Jack smiled. ‘Well done’, I heard him mutter. Walking round the table, Philip put his arm around the lad’s shoulder and with a smile said, ‘You’re getting good at this – it won’t be long before it’s me having to congratulate you.’

Then, with more tea in hand, they heading for a computer to work on a ‘catch-up’ literacy programme for Jack.

‘It’s just amazing’, our staff member told me. ‘I just can’t believe how far Jack has come in such a short time. It is a miracle.’

But, of course, it wasn’t a miracle. The miracle was Philip together with the reason his interventions were so important and powerful for Jack. The secret was that Philip was a volunteer. An amateur rather than a professional who was there because it was their job.

Before my eyes the penny had dropped.

In Jack’s world the only ones ever to give him any attention were professionals; those who were paid to be with him. Teachers, social workers, youth workers, counsellors and therapists.

But Philip was different. Philip was there – and there consistently – simply because he chose to be. No one was paying him. And that was what had such a huge impact on Jack.

Someone wanted to be with him.

Someone wanted to spend time with him.

Someone had chosen to invest in him. Not for any gain – but just for the sake of it.

For Jack this was transformational. It was literally rewiring his brain; restructuring his thinking. And that’s what can make volunteering so powerful in the lives of those being served.

If you are already a volunteer, then I hope this opens your eyes to the surprising added impact of what you are doing. And, if you have yet to volunteer, here’s one more reason to do so.

Volunteerism is powerful. It is the key to building healthy communities.

The word ‘amateur’, of course, comes from the French and means literally ‘lover of’. It originally refers to someone who pursues an activity simply for to love of it; their motivation being nothing beyond the joy of involvement – and in Philip’s case that was to serve another. Our society desperately needs many more amateurs!

Here, however, is the final twist. As Jesus put it so famously: ‘When you do it for the least of these, you do it for me.’

As an old proverb says, ‘God’s appearance changes. Blessed are those who can recognise him in any disguise’. I know Philip would agree.

Steve Chalke MBE

For links to volunteering opportunities – and some inspiration – see the AfterWorkNet webpages on Volunteering in Your Community. And if you have experiences to contribute, do share them here or with our Facebook group. Thank you.

Steve is a British Baptist minister and the founder of Oasis Charitable Trust which works in 36 UK communities through partnerships, projects, services and initiatives. He enjoys the joy of running and the pain of supporting Crystal Palace football club.

Surprise. A little of your time could make a big difference for missionaries serving abroad. Here’s how.

We all know that missionaries serving abroad are making incredible sacrifices. But what if there was a simple way you could ease their load, make their work more fruitful, and their lives more liveable – from right where you are.

Well it’s possible. It’s already happening. And it offers a wonderful way to invest even a small amount of your time and talent.

Can you post a magazine? Drive? Search the internet? Have a spare bed for a night or two? Audio type?

These abilities – and more – are waiting to be used to bless those taking Jesus to the nations. It’s not time-consuming or complicated. But the impact can be significant.

Making this possible is a remarkable Christian charity, MissionAssist. For the past 30-years they have been coordinating home-based volunteers to provide free services for those sent by their church in some aspect of Christian mission.

Sarah J McQuay, MissionAssist’s Director of Services explains, ‘Now nearly 700 volunteers are using their abilities and skills to help those working abroad. Some are able to offer several hours a week and others only one or two. But all are vital in serving world mission and making Jesus known.’

What do you have to offer? The needs are amazingly varied. Everything from posting a magazine to keyboarding and audio typing. Short-term hospitality to researching. Airport pickups to translating. And more.

This even includes more than 100 volunteers keyboarding old and fragile scripture translations to serve a team producing modern digital files for correction and reprinting.

From all the many opportunities waiting for you, let me highlight just three – with some examples of the kind of impact they can make.

Magazine Service

Can you imagine the ‘lift’ a mission worker far from home gets when a copy of their favourite publication arrives by post? Or the joy of their children when a much-missed comic is unwrapped?

MissionAssist link the magazine requests of missionaries with volunteers who can help.

Do you subscribe to, or receive with a membership, any magazine or journal that goes into the paper recycling bin after you have read it?  Would you be willing to post that on instead?

Alternatively, could you take out a subscription specifically so a mission worker or family member could regularly receive what they would really appreciate?

Right now MissionAssist’s waiting list includes children in the Solomon Islands who would love to receive National Geographic Kids. A woman serving in Papua New Guinea who’d welcome Fibromyalgia Magazine. And a paragliding/hang gliding enthusiast in Papua New Guinea longing for Skywings and Cross Country magazines.

It may not seem like much but such gifts are deeply appreciated. Feedback includes –

‘This gift has become a double one. Having read the magazine I then pass them on to an English Language school so their students can enjoy and learn from them. Thank you.’

‘My mailbox was holding two issues of the RSPB magazine Nature’s Home sent by a volunteer. Such a welcome treat.’

Airport Transport

Providing returning mission personnel with transport from an airport is one of MissionAssist’s most valued services.

This is especially true in exceptional circumstances. For example, when a missionary family serving an African country failed to have their visas renewed they had to leave almost immediately.

However, instead of being stranded at Heathrow, a volunteer couple met them, briefly looked after them at home before driving them to friends to stay while arrangements for onward travel were made.

MissionAssist’s volunteer coordinator links advance requests from mission personnel to a volunteer driver in reach of the airport. And there’s an urgent need for more such volunteer drivers. The main demand is for Heathrow – with occasional requests for Gatwick, Luton, Birmingham and Bristol.

It is usual for volunteer drivers to receive a contribution towards their expenses.

The other help for traveling missionaries comes from volunteers providing a Meet and Greet service at airports and train stations. And, again, more are needed to smooth the way by helping with questions, luggage and locating the transport for their onward journey.

Sometimes it’s not just a lone traveller or family in need of help. MissionAssist recently coordinated the arrival of 70 mission conference delegates arriving at various times. Putting them at ease, find the railway station and buy a ticket for their onward journey.


Missionaries back in the UK for a spell sometimes need a place to lay their head for a short time. It might be overnight before a flight, for a few days during a training event, or as a whole family needing a place to stay.

MissionAssist links volunteers to those in need. And for missionaries on a limited income this can be a significant help. As one said, ‘This hospitality is a huge blessing to people like us who can’t afford to stay at a B&B.’’

Such is the demand that more volunteers are needed, especially for London and South East England where the need is greatest – even for those only able to offer a night or two.

But there’s a vision to be able to offer accommodation over the whole of the United Kingdom. So, wherever you live, they would love to hear from you.

Your next step?

There are far more opportunities to help than are listed here. Contact MissionAssist and they will match what you can offer to the needs and opportunities they have waiting.

This is no casual arrangement. MissionAssist volunteers sign an agreement concerning confidentiality and having their data stored. This means they can also be made aware of other opportunities to help as they arise.

If you have a heart for mission and some time and resources to spare this could be a great opportunity. And here’s the link you need – MissionAssist.

Is there a way you are supporting world mission by your actions? Please share it here or with the AfterWorkNet Facebook group. Thank you.

Peter Meadows

Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director. He’s still working part time in his 70s, helping churches and resourcing inter-church initiatives. This is alongside enjoying his eight grandchildren, escaping to Spain and spending his kids’ inheritance.

Once – catching international drug runners. Now – using what God has put in his hands. Paul’s story.

I’d always assumed there would be ample time to plan for the moment my fulltime work ended. Instead, thanks to the austerity measures of the then Chancellor, I had only six weeks before my role in the Serious Organised Crime Agency came to an abrupt end.

My career – with its focus on covert intelligence – had been pressurised and, at times, stressful. Lots of long working days, time away from home, operational out-of-hours decisions, life-threatening risks and the rest.

I know many have similar working pressures of their own. And it’s only on leaving we realise there’s life outside the bubble we call work. Which, too often, defines us and is where we derive our self-esteem.

Early on in my career I adopted a favourite Bible verse of my Dad from Micah 6 v 8 – ‘What does God require of you, but to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God’, and this became my watchword. Of course, to be honest, I didn’t and couldn’t live up to it. But I strived to apply it in my work chasing the bad guys.

So, there I was at 57 – which I knew to be the new 47 – about to take an early bath. And knowing I needed ways to stimulate my grey matter if I was to retain my sanity, keep my marriage alive, and use the skills God has given me.

But first I did something I’d thoroughly recommend to anyone entering their after-work years. It was to take six months doing nothing.

In reality it was not actually ‘nothing’. Having always enjoyed whittling pieces of wood, I spent a stress-free and politics-free few months designing and building a bed from scratch. Be careful if your wife/husband asks you to make the bed.

It proved to be the perfect way to detox. Easing me away from the past pressures and free to contemplate the ‘what next’ issue – other than the plan to learn some proper woodworking skills over the years to come.

It was during that time Moses’ experience at the burning bush, recorded in Exodus chapter 4, came to mind. Here God asks Moses ‘what is that in your hand?’ referring to the staff or crook Moses used as a shepherd.

Moses’ staff was a fundamental tool in his work and helped to define him and identify him. The point for me – and perhaps for you – is God can use what each of has in our hands.  Our skills, knowledge, expertise, finance, influence, creativity, etc.

Over the coming months I was to discover how God would do that for me.

With the bed only just finished, I was asked to join an EU project bringing skills to countries along the maritime cocaine trafficking route. That’s Colombia to Europe via West Africa.

The aim was to help them understand how the bad guys operate and encourage them to share intelligence with ports along the route to. This was a perfect fit regarding what was already ‘in my hand’. And a challenging and satisfying – though at times frustrating – project.

In parallel, I had become coordinator of a £2m building project at my church. Though I lacked any experience of construction, this used my strengths at bridge-building and forging relationships.

And it was in this capacity I was later approached by a Canadian software company wanting to open doors in Europe – specifically in Spain. Having once spent four years working in Madrid, this put to use my fluency in Spanish. And earned some useful some pocket money along with the ‘hardship’ of many visits to Madrid!!

My passion for justice, forged during my years fighting drug crime, then led to me also becoming a trustee of East Surrey Domestic Abuse Service. Here I learn daily of the awfulness of the home-life some are forced to endure.

The same passion, together with my knowledge of intelligence-led investigation, took me to contribute to Stop the Traffik. This great organisation seeks to understand how modern slavery works – the routes, the hot-spots, the pinch-points, etc.

Then came my greatest surprise of all – the encouragement to accept the role of church warden at my Anglican church. ‘Not me’, was my first of several replies. But the God of Moses who asked those penetrating questions while the bush burned was also on my case.

And I finally realised my gifts and background had a part to play here as well. Like the reluctant Moses, I finally gave in.

That’s my story. What’s yours? How is God using what is in your hand? To put it another way, how are you going to use the rest of your life?

For inspiration on ways God can use what is in your hands see the AfterWorkNet webpages on New Opportunities.

How is God using what you have ‘in your hand’ in your days after fulltime work? Please share it here or with the AfterWorkNet Facebook group. Thank you.

Paul is a former senior manager in what is now-badged the National Crime Agency. Married to Alison (Ali) with three married children and heading for seven grandchildren. He co-ordinates a men’s ministry entitled MoMENtum at his church St Paul’s Church in Dorking. For fun it’s driving, F1, carpentry and anything to do with Spain.

An army of grandparents are helping thousands of primary children discover the Bible’s stories. Amazing!

When a small group of mostly newly-retired people began reading and ‘performing’ Bible stories in their local schools they had no idea where it would lead.

But, from that small beginning, some 800,000 children are now regularly hearing the Bible’s stories in more than 3,000 schools. That’s 1 in 6 primary schools in England and Wales.

Those in at the start included a retired accountant and a retired head teacher, with others drawn from four local Bedford churches. They were brought together by a local outreach volunteer, Dave Todd, motivated by constantly meeting children ignorant of the Bible’s stories.

Finding Bob Hartman’s Lion Storyteller Bible, moved things into a new gear – leading to the use of props and costumes to help bring the stories to life.

Roll on about 20 years and now there’s an army of no-longer-working ‘Tims’, ‘Junes’, ‘Daves’ and ‘Brendas’ dressed in bedsheets and towels round their heads. All so children can hear and experience the Bible’s stories and the truths they contain.

The initiative is now called Open the Book, with a three year rolling programme telling the stories in chronological order. That means, each year, a child can hear 33 Old and New Testament stories.

And it’s fair to say the majority of the now more than 17,000 volunteers are using their after-work years to be involved.

What’s the reason for such success? Julie Jefferies, Head of Open the Book says, ‘It’s due to the simplicity of the storytelling, the high fun factor and the dedication and creativity of so many volunteers’.

It’s also true that schools love it. More than 95 per cent of those questioned said they believed Open the Book had a positive impact on the school’s life.

It makes a positive impact on the lives of the volunteers too. Talk to Open the Book volunteers and they frequently use the word ‘fun’. But there’s much more to it than that.

Typical is Ruth McGeown, a beard-wearing storyteller in a brown dressing gown to play Jesus who says, ‘This has given me a heart for children and families in the school and we’ve started a prayer group. I feel I’m invested in school in terms of faith and prayer.’

Others speak of coming to see the Bible through fresh eyes as they present it in its simplicity to children.

Open the Book has also proved to be a very strategic stepping stone. More than a quarter of the churches involved with have gone on to launch Messy Church.

Now, under the supportive and enabling wing of Bible Society, Open the Book is going from strength to strength. However, despite the success, there’s still a long way to go. And the barrier is the need for more volunteers.

Julie Jefferies has a dream. It is to bring the Bible to life for every child in every primary school in England and Wales – reaching over 18,000 schools with 4.5 million children.

More than that, schools are open and waiting to welcome Open the Book.

Holding things back is the shortage of volunteers. Julie reports, ‘Every week we receive requests from teachers who want a team to come to their school. But there simply are not enough people volunteering’.

Could this be you? Or someone you know? An initiative for your church? A strategic and significant way to use your available time and willingness to wear a bed sheet?

If so, Open the Book would love to hear from you – even if it is just to get more information. Contact them at Open the Book.

That’s a decision Bill Sanderson, a retired chemist, is delighted he made. Though busy, he says, ‘I thought I’d give it a try, and I’ve never looked back. This is about bringing the Bible to life for a generation that don’t get these stories at home’.

Bill adds, ‘I have never been part of a drama group or anything like that. But since doing Open the Book, I’ve played God, Peter, the devil and everything. It’s true what they say, that it’s easier to be a baddie’.

For more ideas to make your active retirement years fulfilling see the AfterWorkNet web pages on Serving and Volunteering in Your Community – which includes more on Open the Book including a great video.

Have you an experience of volunteering with Open the Book? Do please share it here or with the AfterWorkNet Facebook group. Thank you.

Peter Meadows

Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director. He’s still working part time in his 70s, helping churches and resourcing inter-church initiatives. This is alongside enjoying his eight grandchildren, escaping to Spain and spending his kids’ inheritance.

God designed old age on purpose. Really!

Did you know God deliberately created old age? Such a thought comes as a surprise to many – because everything we hear about being old is negative.

Far from old age being recognised as part of the Divine plan, it’s wrongly seen as something to be feared, resisted and fought against. For example, the anti-ageing cosmetics industry spends £billions on conveying exactly that message.

So I’m never surprised, when speaking on this subject to a large group of Christians, to find some are not convinced. However the majority, when they see the truth in the Scriptures, see it and are delighted.

We should not be surprised by this failure to see old age being part of God’s plan.

That’s because we know God is opposed by an implacable enemy out to thwart his plan for human kind. And the weapon used to thwart his purpose for older people is ageism’ – with its hidden, subtle, and powerful messaging that diminishes the sense of self and warps expectations.

Ageism is not a jokey, trivial thing. It seeps into our souls silently, powerfully, and daily – in hundreds of different ways. Blinding us to our value, and leaving thousands feeling they are so worthless their lives are a waste of time.

That’s why it is important for old age to be seen from God’s perspective.

God positively wants us to grow old

When God created the universe, he set in motion times and seasons and the ageing process. When you realise the purpose God has in mind, you see how wonderful growing older is meant to be.

God sees old age as a reward and a blessing.  Consider these promises –

‘With a long life I will satisfy him and let him see my salvation.’ Psalm 91:16,

‘… if you walk in my ways, I will prolong your life. 1 Kings 13:14,

‘you shall go to your fathers in peace; you will be buried at a good old age.’ Genesis 15:15.

‘Honour your father and your mother, so you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.’ Exodus 20:12

The peak of the culture of Scriptural times was wisdom, and because it’s acquired with experience and age, older people were respected. ‘Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days,’ (Job 12:12) In contrast, in our culture, the peak of attainment is youth. 

God has a purpose for older people

There is no ‘use-before’ date in 2 Ephesians 10, where God makes clear he has equipped us for the good works that he has already planned for us.

God spends our whole lives honing us to develop the character that will bless others – being reflective, less impulsive, able to take the long view, with emotional balance and empathy, compassion and listening skills.

This long preparation is for seniors – the Bible regards older people as seniors, without actually using the word – to be an elderhood in society. Not lording it over others, but helping, listening, mentoring, encouraging and above all – telling of his faithfulness (Psalm 78).

Following a talk I’d given on this topic, a lady came to me with her face aglow. She said, ‘I’m 70, and a retired teacher. I thought there was nothing else for me now.’ Then, lifting her fists and punching the air, she added, ‘but God’s got more for me yet!

Following a talk I’d given on this topic, a lady came to me with her face aglow. She said, ‘I’m 70, and a retired teacher. I thought there was nothing else for me now.’ Then, lifting her fists and punching the air, she added, ‘but God’s got more for me yet!

Most people respond like this, both to my talks and my book, ‘What’s Age Got To Do With It?’ It is such a blessing to see people released into God’s purpose for them.

Imagine that happening with thousands and thousands of older Christians. Think of the energy that would be released for sharing the gospel and helping those with physical frailties.

However, so much more could be done to see older people released into God’s purposes if this same message was espoused in our churches, as are other biblical principles.

How have you seen God’s purpose for your later years worked out? Do please share here or on the AfterWorkNet Facebook Group.

Louise Morse

Louise Morse is a popular speaker and writer about old age, including dementia, and follows current research on the issues. She’s media and external affairs manager for the Pilgrims’ Friend Society, a Christian charity giving practical and spiritual support to older people.

The epidemic of loneliness needs a Doctor’s prescription. And here it is.

As I’m a doctor, you’d probably expect me to use the word ‘epidemic’ in the context of a raging disease. But not so this time.

There’s an epidemic spoiling lives and even reducing their length with not a virus or a germ in sight. It’s the epidemic of loneliness.

More than that, there’s something we can all do to put this epidemic to flight because it doesn’t need special training or skill. In addition, those in their after-work years are the most able to respond.

The loneliness epidemic can be summed up with three simple statistics. In the UK–

  • Over 9 million people – that’s almost one in five of the population – say they are always or often lonely
  • There are 1.2 million chronically lonely older people
  • Half a million older people go at least five or six days a week without seeing or speaking to anyone

Of course, there’s a massive difference between being alone and being lonely. Also, it’s not just an issue for those too old to get out and about.

This came home to me in my surgery a while back when faced with a teenager asking for help with her low mood.

I discovered she had over 1,000 Facebook ‘friends’ yet nearly all her ‘home time’ was spent in her bedroom, on a tablet, keeping up with ‘friends’. When asked if she ever saw any face to face the answer was ‘hardly ever’.

My patient’s problem was loneliness. She was constantly ‘without company’ and felt ‘cut off from others’. My ‘prescription? That she should re-discover her dormant hobby of dancing – which would return her to a supportive community, with a shared interest.

This simple ‘prescription’ set her on the road to recovery – all without the need for counselling or medication.

This one incident throws up lessons important for all of us –

Loneliness does harm.

Recent research shows loneliness has health implications that go far beyond depression. There good evidence loneliness –

  • Contributes to the development of dementia
  • Increases the risk of physical illness to a greater extent than does raised blood pressure
  • Is a risk factor for heart disease and strokes – having the same impact as smoking 15 cigarettes a day
  • Increases the likelihood of someone dying by more than a quarter

In addition, lonely people visit their GPs more, take more medication, have a higher incidence of falls, and attend A+ E more. For those who are younger the impact on their health tells a similar story.

It is not just an ‘old person’s’ issue

Understandably, loneliness has come to be associated with those towards the end of their days, having lost a life-long spouse and peers, and now being house bound. Of course, this is mostly true.

However, loneliness is increasingly becoming a feature of our society and seen in all seasons of life, from school age, through to old age, and everything in between.

This ought to lead us to keeping our eyes open for loneliness where we would not expect it. As well as seeing the needs among those who are most at risk.

Something can be done

In the case of my young patient, the remedy was to get out there and engage socially. However, for those in later years that’s seldom an option – with the only solution being for caring people to visit.

This leads me to think of the huge benefits in store if more of us took time to seek out those who are lonely and visit from time to time.

This seems to be something that should be right up their street for those who are retired and still active. Be it a regular visit, to a car ride, to a lift to a social setting – including to one of the increasing number of activities being run by churches.

It is something individuals and couples can do. It is something every church should have in its radar and be responding to in a proactive and intentional way.

To explore this further, including for advice on how to become a visitor and befriender, see the AfterWorkNet web pages on The Lonely.

Take the medicine yourself

It seems unlikely that, at this moment, you fit the ‘lonely’ category. But make sure you keep it that way as it is easy to drift into it.

Whatever may happen to you over the coming years, be proactive and engage with others though an old hobby or interest, or by trying a new one. And keep linked, or make links, with a vibrant church and its supportive and loving community.

Richard Roope

Dr Richard Roope has been a GP for almost 30 years at the same Hampshire practice. He’s also the Lead for Cancer for the Royal College of GPs and Cancer Research UK. Married with three daughters – two also doctors – he’s a member of a lively C of E church in Winchester. Enjoying long distance cycling, Richard has just completed a 12-day 760 charity cycle through the length of Italy.

The happiest of all? Those aged 65 to 79. Here’s the surprising facts – and how to be even happier.

If you are between 65 and 79 then the words of the late Ken Dodd hit the nail on the head –

Happiness, happiness, the greatest gift that I possess
I thank the Lord that I’ve been blessed
With more than my share of happiness

Why? Because, as someone in that 65 to 79 age bracket, you truly do have more than your share of happiness. Its official – confirmed by a robust study from the Office for National Statistics.

The survey assed happiness for a sample of 300,000 people between 2012 and 2015, under four headings –

  • How satisfied they were with life
  • How worthwhile they felt their lives to be
  • How happy they felt
  • How anxious they were

Revealingly, in every one of these categories, the 65’s to 79s are streets ahead of every other age group with one very, very, small exception. This is what the research tells us –

Life satisfaction: This peaks between 65 and 79 with them being 400 per cent more satisfied with life than those in their mid-50s. The only other age group to match this – which is the very small exception – is those in their carefree teenage years. So there’s every reason for ‘oldies’ to be young at heart.

Life being worthwhile: It’s the same story here – with the 65s to 79s being almost a fifth more likely to feel life is worthwhile than those struggling through their mid-50s.

However – to flash a warning – the ‘life is worthwhile’ feeling nosedives for those 90 and older. Yet, even then, those 90+ reported greater life satisfaction and happiness than those in their middle years.

Life being happy: Once again it’s much the story. Those 65 to 79 see themselves as 300 per cent more happy than the miserable mid-50s.

Life creating anxiety: On this front too, the 65s to 69s feel half as anxious as those in their mid-50s.

Taking it all together, the average ratings for life satisfaction, a sense your life is worthwhile, and how happy you are, skyrockets in the 65 to 79 years. Of course, this is not true for everyone. That’s not how surveys work. But it is generally true of the UK population as a whole.

And there’s more. When the research was broken down in more detail, some interesting things popped up including –

  • Married people had the highest levels of happiness – higher than those co-habiting, single, widowed or divorced.
  • Those with jobs were happier – with part-time workers the happiest.
  • Northern Ireland was the happiest of the UK’s nations. But the most anxious and least happy people were in England, with the North East the unhappiest region.

So if you are between 65 and 79, married, with a part time job and living in Northern Ireland you must be an absolute bundle of fun.

But perhaps there’s a way for the rest of us to catch up. Because it’s possible to make ourselves happier. That’s according to global studies collated by Rotterdam’s World Happiness Database.

These studies show the strongest correlation with happiness is to lead an active life. As the project’s director Prof Ruut Veenhoven says, ‘In order to lead a happy life, a rewarding life, you need to be active.’

The project has also identified what is likely to be true of those who are happier than others. This reveals you tend to be happier if you –

  • Are in a long-term relationship
  • Are actively engaged in politics
  • Are active in work and in your free time
  • Go out for dinner
  • Have close friendships – though happiness doesn’t increase with the number you have
  • Are not too fixed on having goals

So if you are in the 65 to 79 bracket, be happy that you are happier than most. Be thankful for what is also true that can add to it. And think seriously about giving it a turbo boost by keeping active, building friendships and increasing your social relationships.

Oh, and raise a glass or two in memory of Ken Dodd who seems to have known some of this all along.

Looking to boost your happiness by being more active? See the AfterWorkNet web pages on New Opportunities and our blog on keeping active.

Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director. He uses his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives, enjoy his eight grandchildren, escape to Spain and to spend his kids’ inheritance.

What does age have to do with Easter? More than you might think.

It’s easy to imagine, as the ‘young’ Jesus bursts from the tomb bringing in a vibrant new era, that Easter is all about the active and brave ‘young’. And that those in later years, looking for examples to follow, can only watch from the side-lines.

Time to think again.

First consider the story of that long beyond the age of childbearing couple; the priest Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth. They were there right at the beginning of Jesus’ life on earth – as the parents of John the Baptist.

For years they’d been faithfully trusting God – praying on in the face of the impossibility of ever having the child they longed for. In his later years, despite his disappointment, the elderly Zechariah is faithfully carrying duties in the temple.

Though ‘faithful’, Zechariah was not perfect. He failed to believe God’s promise of a son even though the message came from an angel appearing in the holy place where no one other than a priest should be.

But, when the time comes, the couple obediently call the new-born son John as instructed. I love how the couple’s neighbours try to get them to change their minds about the baby’s name. And that the Gospel writer describes the outcome of the whole story as ‘all the neighbours were filled with awe’. (Luke 1.65).

This grey-haired couple is such a great example to us of faithful and believing prayer, of pressing on despite failure, being obedient to what God says and engaging with their community – all of which contributed to an outstanding impact on those around them.

Yet the journey doesn’t stop there. Come the time the infant Jesus is ceremonially presented at the Temple it’s the elderly God sends as witnesses. One ‘ordained’ and one ‘lay’ – and both awake to God’s leading to be where he wanted them to be and say what he wanted others to hear.

First there’s Simeon, an ‘ordinary’ run-of-the-mill Jewish adult described as ‘faithful and devout’ and with the Holy Spirit on him. For decades he’d patiently waited for the Messiah that God had assured him he would see.

Next, there’s the eighty-four-year-old prophetess, Anna, fervent in her faith. Both she and Simeon are in the Temple at exactly the right time to assure the new parents that their son truly is the Special One.

Fast forward to the events of the first Easter. The women who first meet the risen Jesus and rush to the disciples brimming over with their story include Mary, Jesus’ mother. Simple mathematics tell us she would be at least fifty years old. And, with the life expectancy then for those surviving childhood being about fifty-five, that puts her among the elderly.

Those who then share the message from Jerusalem, to Judea, to Samaria, and the ends of the earth may have launched out in their middle age. But as years go by – and hair turned grey – they continued to preach, to pray, to mentor others, to trust God.

These world-changers were still making waves well into the years we reserve for retirement. And, if them, why not us?

Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director. He uses his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives, enjoy his eight grandchildren, escape to Spain and to spend his kids’ inheritance.

Four reasons why today’s retirees may live longer. And four great ways to respond.

Have you’ve reached your ‘after-work’ years, or are heading towards them? Then you have something to especially celebrate.

More than any previous generation you are likely to be healthier, fitter, and have more years of life ahead of you.

Who or what do we thank for this? I suggest you should give a big hand to the top 4 –

  1. Medical science: The latest drugs and surgical procedures mean far more conditions – chronic and otherwise – can be managed or treated. Meanwhile, new approaches to heart disease have lengthened lives and improved their quality.
  2. Workplace changes: Changing employment patterns have brought less manual work – with its toll on bodies and health – longer holidays and better working conditions. Health and safety legislation, although it can be a pain sometimes, has also played its part.
  3. Health education: Campaigns flagging ‘low fat’, ‘watch your cholesterol’ and ‘eat five a day’, ‘take some exercise’, have been streaming at us for a decade or more. And have made an impact.
  4. Wiser living: We now know that smoking doesn’t promote health and a belly-buster fry up is not necessarily the best way to start the day.

To get a bigger picture of why you may enjoy a longer and healthier life see the AfterWorkNet web page here.

Making the most of it

These four reasons show why your life in retirement is likely to offer far more than it did for our parents’ generation. Not always or for everyone. But more likely.

So what are the opportunities this opens up? A few extra years of self-centred indulgence? Or something more fulfilling.

Here are what I think are four great ways to respond –

  1. Enjoy without guilt: This new season ought to be enjoyed and not endured. However, for the spiritually inclined, it can be that ‘guilty pleasure’ and ‘simple common or garden pleasure’ are one and the same thing.

    Is it really okay to have this much enjoyment when it doesn’t involve something overtly God-centred? Thoughts like this, rumbling deep down in someone’s subconscious, can rob them of the riches on offer.

    Which is why we need to relish St Paul’s words to the young Timothy, about the need to put our hope in God who ‘richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment’. (1 Timothy 6:17).

    Fun, relaxation and pleasure are all part of the riches of God’s creation – to be embraced without guilt. So enjoy.
  2. Pace yourself: For those who can enter their retirement years with a soft and gradual landing this might not be so much of an issue. But there’s an extra challenge for those who reach their after-work moment in the same way a train can hit the crash barriers.

    For them it may be wise to see this new season as a series of mini-seasons. These could include an initial breather to enjoy the change. Then a period to ease into the new era. Next a ‘go for it’ season, to make the most of the time and health at hand. Then the slowing down as ‘young old’ becomes ‘old old’.
  3. Make a plan: These are precious years that deserve some thought as to what they can deliver and with a plan to make it so. And one of the great dangers of moving into an unstructured and ‘every day is a Saturday’ era is time can just slip by.

    Setting priorities, and defining what is hoped to be experienced and achieved, may not be the first thing to do. But it ought to be done at some point after settling in to life after work.

    No two plans will be the same. No two bucket lists will be identical. But do make sure you have yours – with some things you’d like to look back on in a few years’ time with gratitude and satisfaction.
  4. Explore opportunities: Unlike past generations, there’s the opportunity try new things, develop new interests and skills, and have new experiences. These can be for your own enrichment or for the good of others. Or, ideally, both.

    To explore 10 interesting and varied options, see the AfterWorkNet web page New Challenges.
  5. Keep God’s kingdom in focus: As the curtain goes up, and you become an ‘actor’ in the great drama of retirement, the prompters words from the wings are likely to be ‘this is your time now’, and ‘you are worth it’.

    But there’s a need to be listening to another voice. The one that we hope will one day say ‘Well done my good and faithful servant’.

    There may be a host of factors – medical and otherwise – that have ushered in a longer and heathier life. But ultimately, every year – indeed, every breath – is a gift from the God who made us and loves us.

    Whatever your plans, don’t miss the opportunity to line them up with being an answer to that prayer you so often pray, ‘Your kingdom come’.

    To explore what that means, explore the AfterWorkNet web pages under Serving.

Peter Meadows

What do you do for fun? Share it here or with the AfterWorkNet Facebook group.

Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director. He’s using his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives, enjoy his eight grandchildren, escape to Spain and to spend his kids’ inheritance.

Your life-skills and experience. Here’s how not to waste them in your active retirement.

Do you remember the story Jesus told – about a servant who buried what had been trusted to him? And how his master reacted? How might that play out, I wonder, if applied to our time in active retirement?

Just think, for a moment, of the ‘talents’ you’ve accumulated during your many working years. Most likely they represent a treasure trove of valuable skills, knowledge and experience.

It was what kept you afloat back then. But what about ‘now’? Because the call to be faithful stewards of the talents we have doesn’t end with our last pay cheque.

Of course, not everything gained in your years of work may be directly relevant to serving God now. You might even be crying out for a change from what used to fill your days.

But that still leaves the challenge of ‘stewardship’ and what you have the opportunity to do with who what’s ‘in your hands’.

Brush yourself down and talk yourself up

It’s possible you are not even aware of the workplace skills and life experience that could so enrich your church.

So, with that story from Jesus in your mind, think of what you have brought from your working life into your retirement. Might it match any of these examples –

Customer service skills     Personnel management     Maintenance/building knowledge
Marketing     Team building and coaching     Research     Negotiation     Strategic planning
Commercial writing     IT and social media     Change management     Budgeting     Making things happen     Communication and presentations     Managing people     Conflict resolution Mentoring     Fundraising     Etc, etc, etc

But now what? You’ve identified your ‘talent’, but getting it used in the context of your church may not be that easy.

Help church leaders understand

Sometimes it can be hard work to help church leaders understand the way ‘non-spiritual’ gifts can be used to build up a church. Sometimes they may even feel threatened by the workplace skills and experience others have accumulated.

On the positive side, those who lead churches do tend to understand their church needs to use the spiritual gifts of all their members. But when it comes to engaging the practical skills, insights and expertise of those actively retired it can be a different story.

They are likely to see what ex-accountants can do as having a role. And then consider everyone else suitable for committees or rotas. Because of this you may well need to take action by –

  • Sharing with them the content on our web page What Church Leaders Should Know
  • Pointing out, in a one-to-one, the skills and knowledge you have, together with an example of where it could be used.
  • Being proactive and offering to contribute to an area of church life that would be enriched by using your workplace skills and experience.
  • Setting the pace by encouraging them to initiate a ‘Skills Directory’ or something similar. This involves those with time available – so not restricted to retired people – to identify the skills they could offer.

Walk humbly

Just a word of caution. Using what you have gathered in your past life in the context of your church can lead to ‘I know and you don’t’.

That may well be true – especially if you’ve had sound experience in commerce and your church leader did not much before ‘vicar school’. But the attitude behind it, and the way it is communicated, can do damage unless humility and a servant attitude are at its heart.

So keep the words of St Paul to the church in Ephesus in mind- ‘Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love’.

Remember too, that being a church leader is rather like herding cats. And may be being done by those lacking the same experience from the wider world as you. So cut them some slack.

At the same time, it is our talents that God has placed in our hands and our responsibility and opportunity to use them.

Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director. He uses his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives, enjoy his eight grandchildren, escape to Spain and to spend his kids’ inheritance.

Do you have an experience of using your workplace skills to serve your church? Please share them here or with our Facebook group.

How come everyone is interested in the Saga generation – except the churches?

‘No church in Britain is specifically seeking to reach the retired and active generation.’ That’s the conviction of Church Army captain Chris Harrington – whose Grove booklet Reaching the Saga Generation is a must-read.

As Chris highlights, when churches reach out to older people the focus is almost always on those born before the last World War.

They do so by running everything from a Holiday at Home, to a regular drop-in coffee morning, to visiting those in residential care or nursing homes.

All good stuff. But it doesn’t touch those of a very different generation who are also no longer working fulltime, often dubbed the Saga Generation. Those brought up on Elvis rather than Doris Day. Who jived not quick-stepped. Who wore denim – and still do!  Who by no means regard themselves as ‘old’.

Some of the ways they are distinctly different from their older counterparts, Chris stresses, are –

  • They were the first ‘teenagers’ and have lived through the free-thinking era of the new pop-culture
  • They do not trust governments, multinationals, institutions or authority figures
  • They dislike being patronized, dictated to or treated condescendingly
  • They demand honesty, consistency, reliability, quality, value for money and good service.

What’s more, this segment of our society represents a huge sector of the population.

Official figures point to there being approaching 9 million people in the active retirement band, aged between 65 and 79. That’s almost three times as many as those in the ‘old-old’ band of 80 and above. Yet think where churches put their focus and what they are missing.

What an opportunity there is for churches to treat this Baby Boomer age-group in the same way they do for other age and interest groups – with events, services and programmes crafted for them. Maybe not every week. But sometimes. Or, at least, to run small groups and events that can embrace un-churched actively retired people.

Could it happen? Is it happening?

The Church of England’s report Mission Shaped Church (2004) encouraged fresh expressions of church for the vast numbers who are either un-churched or de-churched. Now, Chris Harrington and others are exploring what that could mean for what he calls Saga Church – those who’ve reached retirement age with years of opportunity ahead of them.

However, any response must relate to them as they are and not as they’re imagined to be. When reaching out to those retired and active Chris offers a check list to keep in mind. It involves the need to –

  • De-emphasise membership – Boomers are not ‘joiners’ but will attend for the experience
  • Accommodate their desire for experiences – Boomers are not passive ‘you talk and I’ll listen’ people
  • Emphasis ‘how to’ messages – Boomers are interested in what works and how to make it work for them
  • Recognise the need for equality in leadership, authority and responsibility – Boomers resist hierarchy
  • Accept and celebrate the contribution of singles – there’s likely to be a greater percentage of them than any other adult segment of your community
  • Respond to the relatively high level of dysfunctionality and emotional pain – there may be smiles on the outside but also a lot of pain and struggle behind the masks
  • Give prominence to innovation, diversity and options – Boomers resist one-size-fits-all approaches.
  • Encourage discussion and not dogma – they want to be spoken with and listened to, not talked at

What could be done?

In his book Chris has helpful examples of what events might be like. It also stresses there are other ways – and possibly better ways – than church services to engage with un-churched afterworkers. These include –

  • A ‘seeker service’ a la Willow Creek – with everything focused on the needs and interests of the visitor
  • A film and faith group – using a current film as a spring board for conversation
  • A book club – based on secular novels with spiritual themes
  • Rambling groups, retreats and pilgrimages – with moments for reflection

How come this isn’t happening already? My sense is we’ve sleepwalked into this situation. This new ‘actively retired’ group has gradually emerged as a new phenomenon. The travel industry spotted it – and now caters for 25 million people on cruises world-wide each year.

But now is the time – a time well overdue – for the churches to wake up too.

To explore this issue more, do read Chris Harrington’s book Reaching the Saga Generation, (Grove Books).

What insights or questions do you have about reaching those retired and active? Please share them here or on the AfterWorkNet Facebook community

Peter Meadows

Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director. He’s using his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives, enjoy his eight grandchildren, escape to Spain and to spend his kids’ inheritance.


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.

Retirement is hardest for a certain kind of person. Is this you? If so here’s 9 ways to flourish.

Old senior business man happy working in office

For some people, the years following full-time work fit like a glove. Yet others really struggle in their new skin. And the difference can have a lot to do with the way they’re made.

Those who are finding it hardest to adjust are what psychologists label Type A personality people. Unlike easy-going Type Bs, they are driven, competitive, organised, concerned to make things happen, ambitious, and desperate to use their time well.

Type As are easy to spot in the workplace – taking charge, aiming for perfection and getting wound up by the incompetence of others.

Of course, there are degrees to which this description is true. Not all Type Bs are so relaxed they’re horizontal. And not all Type As want to rule the world. But – and here’s the bad news –

Those with a tendency towards a Type A temperament face the greatest challenge in retirement.

Why? Because, when Type A people move on from fulltime work, the way they prefer to do life doesn’t change. And that can make for a very bad and highly frustrating fit for them and those around them.

On the personal front, retirement for a Type A means they’re now living in a world offering little challenge, responsibility or opportunity to ‘deliver’. That can result in feeling lost and abandoned due to the lack of a big reason to get up in the morning, a structure to their day and having responsibility on their shoulders.

This can show up as anything from a major attack of the grumps to frustration and even emotional illness. What’s more, Type As can be bad news for those close to them – particularly their spouses who may end up being treated as a surrogate employee.

I heard of one woman whose Type A husband was now demanding she folded the towels differently. He’d never cared about it for the past 50 years and this was not going to work!

So, if you’re a Type A personality what can you do to make your retirement years fulfilling rather than frustrating? Here are 9 positive actions to take.

  1. Build a new network: Social interaction and stimulation might be one of your biggest losses when exiting the workplace. Make sure the gap gets filled. Find stimulating, like-minded people to spend time with
  2. Identify new goals and challenges: Most Type A people have worked in settings where they thrived on having goals and achieving targets and matching performance metrics. If no longer having them leaves a hole then create new ones that fit into your new life.

    Perhaps it’s how far you’ll get down your domestic to-do list, how often you take a walk, the rate of progress in some new skill. For a mass of ideas regarding new challenges to face see the AfterWorkNet webpages on New Opportunities.
  3. Get out often. Fight boredom by doing things to burn off energy and reduce your stress levels. This is going to take more than endless rounds of golf.
  4. Volunteer: Countless worthwhile opportunities await your skills, experience and desire to make a difference in the lives of others. It may take some adjustment if you were once a top dog and now find yourself a small fish.

    Indeed, with that in mind, look for an opportunity that takes account of your Type A qualities. To consider the options and for wise advice see the AfterWorkNet webpages on Serving.
  5. Work at changing your behaviour: The fact is you will always be a Type A personality, but you can at least recognise what this means and try to make adjustments.

    Could you, for example, try to be more patient and less demanding? Could you try to take a back seat in the new circles you become part of rather than defaulting to an ‘I’ll do it’ approach?
  6. Be less time-driven: For someone used to having life dictated to by a schedule of appointments and meetings that can be a shock. Although time will always be precious for you, now it can be used differently. It’s no longer about how much you can cram in to the hours available.

    By all means put structure into your day. But give yourself permission to be more spontaneous and flexible. You could even write ‘time to chill’ in your day-planner and treat it as an appointment that has to be kept.
  7. Learn something new. Everyone who retires will benefit from learning a new skill or developing an old one. But this is especially important for Type A people. Studying, going to classes, joining an interest group, completing tasks and assignments, all have a positive role to play in making life more satisfying.
  8. See retirement as having a new job: You could even write yourself a job description – perhaps with a vision and mission statement. Define in words a role that has joy, relaxation, renewal, discovery and service. Then make plans to do it.
  9. Back pedal your competitiveness: A classic Type A person plays tiddlywinks with a four year old and cheats to win! When in competitive situations try to modify your behaviour by putting less emphasis on the score and outcome and more on simply enjoying the company.

Peter Meadows

Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director. Most definitely a Type A, he’s using his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives, enjoy his eight grandchildren, escape to Spain and to spend his kids’ inheritance.

After a life of deadlines how is a retired journalist still making headlines? Here’s how.

When my retirement came – after a lifetime as a journalist working on newspapers, magazines and public relations – it was something of a shock to wake each morning without any pressing deadlines.

Yet now, 14 years after hanging up my green-eyeshade and editorial responsibilities, I seem busier than ever. And, like many retirees I guess, happier for it.

My transition to life in my afterwork world revealed there are some things that just have to be done. For me this included a move to be near a daughter and her family – from Oxfordshire to Lancashire. This also involved changing churches.

But then there are the choices and mine was not to vegetate either in mind or body.

As a result, my writing skills, allied to an interest in photography, led to gaining space in local newspapers to make our new church more visible. On one occasion this led to worldwide publicity for the local Street Pastors.

This came after I wrote an article on an 87-year-old member of our church who was still out on the streets in the early hours of Friday night and Saturday mornings. Her picture graced most national newspapers. And she was later a recipient of the Queen’s Maundy money in nearby Blackburn Cathedral, and appeared on the New Years Honours list.

To extend my social circle I joined a weekly writer’s group meeting in a local pub. One member came when I was invited to speak at a local Baptist Church – and the following week entertained the group with a potted review of the sermon in glowing terms.

I also knew I needed to do something to retain some semblance of fitness. Though our move had taken us to walking country I’m not a keen walker. So I joined the walking football sessions run by Burnley in the Community, the charitable arm of the football club.

It has proved to be great fun – despite most of the guys having lots of football experience and me having little. This being despite covering most of the London Clubs as a journalist for a Sports Agency and getting to know legends like Bobby Moore and Glenn Hoddle.

At 79 I am the second oldest on our team and can still manage one hour sessions on Mondays and Fridays each week.

My eyes have also been open to new opportunities. For example, having enjoyed the full colour magazine – Northern Life – covering life in Yorkshire and Lancashire I now write a couple of features in most editions and do the book reviews.

This is a great way to be involved with local people, including some of whom come to our small church.

More recently I have had the great pleasure of joining forces with a former magazine colleague, Steve Goddard. Steve had been press officer for the Christian Resources Exhibition for many years and when it was about to close he and his wife bought it up.

I was persuaded to become the press officer and it has been great fun – meeting many faces from the Christian past and being able to publicise many Christian organisations doing a valuable work for God.

I can look back at a life that has included shaking hands with a Pope, having an audience with another, spending time with the late Billy Graham, and interviewing many sporting, political and literary personalities. I have even been sworn at by the Duke of Edinburgh

Yet what has been an exciting life has continued in my new phase of active retirement. Each day I wonder what God has in store and there is always something worthwhile.

And to think that I could have settled for just pruning the roses.

Dave Hall

Dave Hall spent his working life as a journalist on local newspapers, Christian magazines, and was the press officer who helped launch the Good News Bible. Married with two adult children – one living in Spain and the other close to his home near Burnley. At his village church Dave preaches and helps at Little Stars, the mums’ and toddlers’ group, and Messy Church.

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.

Next year is like a new country – and these 5 wise ‘travel tips’ are not to be missed.

Going into a new year is a lot like taking a journey to another country. In both cases you don’t know exactly what’s ahead. And there are some wise things to keep in mind to make the very best of it.

So, as you voyage into 2019, here are 5 rather obvious ‘travel tips’ to make the journey as worthwhile as possible.

1.Be realistic about it.

When it comes to holidays, the brochures tend to make it all look far better than the real thing. After all, that’s their job. But we too can wrongly imagine the land of New Year will be significantly different to the one that’s gone before.

In reality, nothing magical happens when the clock strikes midnight on December 31st. There’s no Cinderella in reverse to be experienced. And this is one of the hard truths to learn about travel. That, wherever we go, we take ourselves with us.

If we’re tetchy, ungrateful, easily irritated, and self-centred, that side of us will still be with us as we journey on. A new country won’t fix it and nor will a New Year. Which means the need to take a realistic account of who we are and what we are like – and doing something about it.

2.Check your baggage weight.

I hate that awful moment at airports when the unsmiling check-in person tells me with unwelcome glee that I’m a little overweight. Sure, it’s a relief when I realise this is not personal and is about my luggage.

But what excess baggage might you be taking into the year ahead? Bitterness, hatred, shame, regret, jealousy? Or some other unhelpful emotions that will way us down when we are across the border of 2019?

These are the weights to leave behind – by forgiving others, forgiving yourself, by recognising that God loves us for who we are.

3.Choose the right travel companions.

There’s nothing worse than discovering that someone who’s great for an occasional coffee is a nightmare as a full-on travel companion. So who would we best have at our side in the New Year journey?

Will they enrich your life – and give you opportunities to enrich theirs? Will they speak the kind of truth you need to hear and be open for you to do the same for them? Will their positive outlook spur you on or their negativity drag you down?

Or think of it this way, who are those you can invest time in, celebrate with, and express love and appreciation for? And how can you make sure they are traveling with you and you with them.

4.Check your destination.

There’s the classic story of the airline passenger who ended up in Istanbul when they had bought a ticket to Torquay. (Think about it!) You’ll only have one opportunity to explore 2019 so make sure you get have a ticket for the right destination.

This is where having a few simple but clear goals come in. Not overwhelming ones that, in your heart of hearts, you know you’ll flunk in the first few weeks. But a fresh commitment or two on how to make the most of one more precious year in your afterwork stage of life.

For a little inspiration, here are three possible areas to explore –

Your new possibilities

Your health and fitness

Your service to others

5.Pack wisely.

To be honest, what you take with you may be the least of your worries. That’s because, over the years, you’ve accumulated a storehouse of knowledge, skills, know-how, experience and wisdom. As they say, ‘It’s in the bag’.

In which case, having packed it, don’t keep it all to yourself. You can make the coming year more rewarding for you and others by making sure what you’ve packed is put to good use.

Ahead is a new land waiting to be enjoyed, explored and enriched. Bon voyage.

Jeff Lucas

Jeff is still some way from his afterwork years. His passion is to equip the Church with practical bible teaching, marked by vulnerability and humour. And he does so as an international author, speaker and broadcaster. Check him out at Jeff Lucas.

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.

Up for a new challenge? How about becoming a Waterway Chaplain?

Life after fulltime work offers countless new opportunities. And if you enjoy the open air and have a gift for helping people, here’s something that may well float your boat.

The UK’s river and canal network is home to a large number of boat-dwellers as well as those who take to the water for fun. And out there – offering friendship, practical support and a listening ear – are Waterway Chaplains.

There’s a great need for many more to join their ranks. That’s because we want every stretch of the UK’s 2,200 or so miles of navigable canals and rivers to have a visible Christian presence.

As Senior Chaplain, it’s my job to make that happen and my vision is, by 2020 , we will have increased our present 70 Waterway Chaplains to 200.

This is a great rewarding opportunity those with time to offer and a heart for people – to extend the love of Christ through pastoral care, friendship and practical support.

What kind of needs are there on the waterways?

Don’t imagine a Waterway Chaplain’s flock is made up of posh, self-sufficient, people with boats. It’s not all P J Wodehouse’s ‘Three Men in a Boat’ – larking about on the river. Yes, there are those using the waterways for fun or seeking an escape to tranquillity in their active retirement. But there are many on limited incomes. They may be there because a boat offers affordable accommodation. With some struggling to get by, often experiencing health and relationship problems.

That’s why I can tell you about people like –

Jim’ – with depression and financial problems. He was helped by a chaplain – over a period of months – to get housing benefit, appeal when his benefits were stopped, and have access to a food bank until he was well enough to return to work.

‘Alex’ – dying of cancer. A chaplain supported him, hosted his American family who came for his funeral and led a service to scatter his ashes attended by about 30 people from the local boating community.

‘Jenny’ – feeling lost and alone. She had a new-born child and a husband who had lost his job. Too far from Citizen’s Advice and with no money for transport or fuel, she needed help. After a chaplain put a card under her door, ‘Jenny’ was helped with their immediate problems with the chaplain staying in touch until they were back on their feet.’

‘Bill – sleeping rough as he journeyed between locations, with thoughts of suicide. He thanked a chaplain for saving his life by being in touch by text as he walked along the towpath.

Dave’ – living on £50 a week. A chaplain help him claim housing benefit and have access to a food bank. When bitten by a dog, the chaplain arranged for his infection to be treated as a temporary patient.

What kind of people are Waterway Chaplains?

Our volunteer chaplains come from local churches and include both lay people and ordained ministers. Some have a background of boating. Others have had no previous experience of inland waterways.

They commit to walking a mile of towpath each week, engaging with boaters, canal workers, anglers, dog-walkers, ramblers and others. Sometimes it will just be a walk – praying as they go. But this regular journey, with a listening ear and a praying heart, may well lead to relationships with those who need to talk or have other needs to be met.

Senior Chaplains provide practical training and mentoring support, including prayer. Each chaplain is given a lock windlass engraved with our key values ‘act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God’ (Micah 6.8). It’s a scripture that perfectly sums up the role of a Waterway Chaplain.

Could this be a role that you – or someone you know – could take on? Please find out more about this wonderful opportunity to serve others in the name of Jesus at Waterways Chaplaincy.

However, if walking the waterways is not up your street, you’ll find a host of other ways to use your God-given years after work on the AfterWorkNet website page Serving Your Community.

Mark Chester

Mark Chester is a former army officer and a Vicar in Surrey. He’s married to Zillah, who is also a Waterways Chaplain and they have two grown up sons and two grandchildren. To relax Mark rides horses – with more enthusiasm than skill – but not on the towpath.

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.

Do something remarkable for others overseas in your retirement – using these 4 key steps. 

Travel may well be among your plans during your years of active retirement. But what about combining it with doing something amazing – for others and for you?

Indeed, there are more opportunities to make a ‘hands-on’ difference overseas than ever before. So if you envy the many young adults doing mission trips, now’s the time for yours.

Interested? Then here’s your 4 key steps to getting it right and probably the adventure of a lifetime.

1.Asses what you have to offer

Making a short-term impact overseas is not all about having the stamina to build a school. Far from it.

During your working life you’ll have gathered skills and experience that, almost certainly, match what is in need – either by doing it yourself or sharing what you know.

To help you identify what you have that would fit, there’s a wide range of assessment tools here.

2.Decide how much time you want to commit

Opportunities overseas often split into –

  • Short-term – less than 3 months: This might be visits with a team, a short placement at a project or alongside a mission worker
  • Medium term – 3-12 months: This includes gap-year type placements or opportunities that fit within a year, like teaching in an international school
  • Long term -1 year +: term: This tends to be for open-ended opportunities. This doesn’t mean staying for a long time but that the commitment isn’t limited and may include a return to the UK every year for a break.

3.Find the best fit for you

Want to serve in a Christian context? Then your first stop would be OSCAR. It’s a specialist clearing house and advice centre with everything you need.

Use their website to –

Search for opportunities that match your criteria. To comply with discrimination laws they can’t specify an age range. So assume they are all open to receiving enquiries from someone actively retired.

Compile a list of possibilities. Even if not everything matches, if there’s something that interests you about the organisation/opportunity, include them too.

Contact those on your list. Tell them about you. They will be able to see if they have something matching what you’re after.

Be open to discovery. You may be surprised to find organisations catching your interest due to something they do or where they work. Keep them in your picture too.

Find something you believe in. If you are investing your time and talents you need to fully believe in what it does and how it does it.

Apply. Eventually you’ll decide which ones to apply to. This process is also a time for helping you select the right one. This isn’t like a normal job application, you are both trying to assess what God may have in mind.

Tap into help. Once you’ve nailed this down, use OSCAR for everything else you need to sort out like travel, insurance, and health checks.

There are also opportunities through non-church sources such as –

  • VSO – with opportunities for those up to 75 and including short-term assignments.
  • HelpX – an online listing of opportunities for short-term work in exchange for food and accommodation. In a typical arrangement a helper works an average of 4 hours per day in exchange for free accommodation and meals.

4.Go as a servant

Don’t go as a rescuer – the hero or heroine ready to end the plight of ‘the poor native’. Rather, go to server those who are the true heroes and heroines– bravely battling against the odds to make life better for themselves and others.

Poor communities need the dignity of deciding and managing their own future – a future in which God is already at work. Joining in is a privilege that calls for humility and a servant attitude.

But what an opportunity and privilege. It could beat a cruise hands down every time. And to explore in more depth see our webpages on serving internationally.

Peter Meadows

Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director. He uses his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives, enjoy his eight grandchildren, escape to Spain and to spend his kids’ inheritance.

Do you have any experience – good or bad – about volunteering overseas? Or some wisdom to share? Then do please comment here or on our Facebook.


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.

You could be the listening ear a child needs.

You only need to think back to how books enriched your young life to get an inkling of what a little of your time could do for some children today.

Recent reports suggest many children who lacked an ability to read in their early years end up struggling to keep up with peers in the years that follow. Many just needed someone to listen to them read.

And that’s your opportunity, fuelled by your own delight in the books that shaped your own young live.

Perhaps, as a child, the books that fired your imagination were those like The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis or Stig of the Dump by Clive King.

I know this was true for me – a delight to read and, unbeknown to me, they began to shape my values and were even an early signposts in my search for faith. Not bad for children’s books.

It was Clive King’s his own childhood that inspired him to write Stig of the Dump in 1963. If you are a Baby Boomer like me, you probably remember it’s the story of a boy who falls into a chalk pit at the bottom of his grandparent’s garden and discovers a new friend from the Stone Age.

It’s a reminder of the adventures children used to have, imagined or otherwise, when allowed to roam free in the countryside, discovering bits of ‘this and that’, which could be turned into something enhancing whatever game was being played. I now live in a village but have never seen children playing in the countryside. What’s happened? Have they lost the freedom we once enjoyed?

Imaginations however still need feeding and encouraging. CS Lewis recalls how a miniature garden made by his brother on top of an old biscuit tin evoked an early image of paradise, and how the talking animal stories they invented in the attic at their childhood home became the basis of the Narnia adventures he wrote in later life.

There may not be a children’s book in you waiting to be written, though you never know until you try, but you could be a listening ear to children who need their imaginations stirring.

Could you give the vital gift of being a listening ear to a child – as a number of actively-retired people from my own church are doing and finding it very rewarding? If so, here are the easy steps to take –

  1. Contact the Head Teacher at your local primary school. This could be done through the local church minister or pastor if a few of you are going in, which helps build stronger links with local schools, but it is not essential.
  2. Offer an hour a week, or more if able, to listen to children read.
  3. Go along a meet the Head and find out how to proceed
  4. They should need a Safeguarding Check (DBS) which they can organise.
  5. They will have their own books, but you can offer to take or donate books, though please do check with the school if it is ok with them.

Reading changed my life, and it’s never too late to be an agent of change for someone else.

Chris Harrington

Rev Captain Chris Harrington is a Church Army officer and Rector of Heckington and Helpringham Group of Parishes. He has a special interest in reaching the retired and active generation and author of the Grove Booklet Reaching the Saga Generation.

You could be the listening ear a child needs.


You only need to think back to how books enriched your young life to get an inkling of what a little of your time could do for some children today.

Recent reports suggest many children who lacked an ability to read in their early years end up struggling to keep up with peers in the years that follow. Many just needed someone to listen to them read.

And that’s your opportunity, fuelled by your own delight in the books that shaped your own young live.

Perhaps, as a child, the books that fired your imagination were those like The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis or Stig of the Dump by Clive King.

I know this was true for me – a delight to read and, unbeknown to me, they began to shape my values and were even an early signposts in my search for faith. Not bad for children’s books.

It was Clive King’s his own childhood that inspired him to write Stig of the Dump in 1963. If you are a Baby Boomer like me, you probably remember it’s the story of a boy who falls into a chalk pit at the bottom of his grandparent’s garden and discovers a new friend from the Stone Age.

It’s a reminder of the adventures children used to have, imagined or otherwise, when allowed to roam free in the countryside, discovering bits of ‘this and that’, which could be turned into something enhancing whatever game was being played. I now live in a village but have never seen children playing in the countryside. What’s happened? Have they lost the freedom we once enjoyed?

Imaginations however still need feeding and encouraging. CS Lewis recalls how a miniature garden made by his brother on top of an old biscuit tin evoked an early image of paradise, and how the talking animal stories they invented in the attic at their childhood home became the basis of the Narnia adventures he wrote in later life.

There may not be a children’s book in you waiting to be written, though you never know until you try, but you could be a listening ear to children who need their imaginations stirring.

Could you give the vital gift of being a listening ear to a child – as a number of actively-retired people from my own church are doing and finding it very rewarding? If so, here are the easy steps to take –

  1. Contact the Head Teacher at your local primary school. This could be done through the local church minister or pastor if a few of you are going in, which helps build stronger links with local schools, but it is not essential.
  2. Offer an hour a week, or more if able, to listen to children read.
  3. Go along a meet the Head and find out how to proceed
  4. They should need a Safeguarding Check (DBS) which they can organise.
  5. They will have their own books, but you can offer to take or donate books, though please do check with the school if it is ok with them.

Reading changed my life, and it’s never too late to be an agent of change for someone else.

Chris Harrington

Rev Captain Chris Harrington is a Church Army officer and Rector of Heckington and Helpringham Group of Parishes. He has a special interest in reaching the retired and active generation and author of the Grove Booklet Reaching the Saga Generation.

If only church leaders grasped 5 vital truths about those retiring today

This is not a knock at church leaders. They are flat out doing all they can in challenging and demanding circumstances.

Rather, it’s a wakeup call. Because something significant has changed in society, and there’s a whole section of the congregations that could be missed.

While they’ve been flat out meeting the needs of children, youth, families, singles, and golden oldies, a new social segment has emerged. It’s those now sometimes called the ‘young old’ – they’re no longer working fulltime but definitely still up for living life to the full.

This has huge implications for churches and their leaders. In particular, there’s a need to take account of these 5 vital truths:

1. Those retiring today are not like their parents

In the past, retirement meant looking to take life easy – with little thought of fresh experiences and opportunities. However, those now coming to retirement – or already there –

  • Do not see themselves as ‘old’ or want to be treated as such
  • Are still ‘young’ in mind, body, and body
  • May want to make the most of the knowledge, skills, and experience they gathered during their working years

2. Those retiring today are not ‘seniors’

If a church has a ministry to seniors – those unlikely to have ever worn denim – this will not cut it for those in the early years of retirement. They may be willing to serve in that setting – but it’s not ‘them’.

Indeed, most of today’s retirees would rather be anywhere other than counted among a group now designated as ‘old – whose memories are of Doris Day rather than Elvis or The Beatles.

3. Those retiring today are not ‘traditional’ worshipers

In terms of their worship experience and aspirations, they’re not ‘traditional’. Rather, they have grown older during the years of church renewal – and Spring Harvest worship and its kind. Indeed, they have been the ones who’ve encouraged it rather than resisted.

As a result, they may not have much taste for tradition and reflection and have outgrown all-age-worship’s action songs. So they may struggle to find a church experience that works for them and to which they could invite their peers.

4. Those retiring today are a great resource for your church

When a church leader hears of someone no longer working the word ‘rota’ may come quickly to mind. Or they rejoice that there’s perhaps another pair of hands to do some practical work.

Yet something much more is now on offer.

This generation of retirees is computer literate, internet savvy and has been immersed in the best workplace practice. That’s why websites are now offering them ways to put their past experience to use in the voluntary sector.

So why shouldn’t their church tap into their skills in management, IT, finance, communications, mentoring, customer service, fundraising, accountancy, marketing, HR and more?

Here’s a resource for churches, women, and men waiting to be engaged with. A grouping non-existent in the days when the end of paid work meant just putting your feet up.

5. Those retiring today need help to adjust and flourish

The journey to and through retirement will be unique for each church member. But almost all would benefit from the pastoral support, wisdom, and help of their church leaders.

Above all they need to be developed rather than ‘used’.

This can involve –

  • Identifying and helping those heading for their P45 to think and pray through what’s ahead
  • Treating them as a defined segment of church life alongside children, youth, seniors, etc
  • Creating activities, projects, and opportunities that relate to their needs and abilities

For a raft of practical suggestions on what a church can do for its retired and active members see our website under What a Church Leader can do.

Some of it is very simple. Some is very profound. And all is worth doing.

Peter Meadows

Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director. He uses his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives, enjoy his eight grandchildren, escape to Spain and to spend his kids’ inheritance.

Do you have insights or questions relating to church leadership and those retired and active? Please tell join our FaceBook community and share them.


Your community needs people like you – and the opportunities may surprise you.

Now that every day is a Saturday – except Sundays – could you invest some of your new-found time into your community?

There are crying needs out there and a vast range of opportunities– from simply ‘helping out’ to using your professional skills.

Finding the right niche may take some searching, patience and a little trial and error. But the outcome will be more than worth it – for them and for you.

Where to find a volunteer role

A simple first step to finding a rewarding volunteer role is the website of your local authority – look under ‘volunteers’. It reveals what they have available and, most likely, has links to local charities seeking help.

You could also look around and keep your eyes open. Notice boards in your library, doctor’s surgery and so on my have something. Or one of the many charity shops.

There are also two goldmines for you to explore:

Donate your professional skills through Reach: This ‘clearing house’ links those with skills in management, IT, finance, communications, mentoring, fundraising, accountancy, marketing, HR and more to charities desperate to use them. This can be from a few hours a week to full time.

Search a register of volunteer roles at CharityJob: At almost any time there are up to 3,000 volunteer posts here, searchable on post code and the kind of activity you are interested in.

Examples of volunteer opportunities

From the myriad of possibilities, the following are illustrations of ways your time, talents and experience can be used to serve others:

Childline: This lifeline for children and young people needs volunteers 24 hours a day, every day of the year. And can take volunteers for as little as 4 hours a week. They even offer an email counselling role.

Good Neighbours: Organised by the Royal Voluntary Service, this gives practical help to elderly people. From small household tasks to running errands. It also offers a way to spend time with a lonely older person either face to face or on the phone.

The Samaritans: There are vacancies for volunteers to listen, support or fund-raise.

Support a school through Scripture Union: They have identified many ways a volunteer can serve schools including –

  • Supporting class trips, as a teacher assistant, in the library, setting up displays etc. And helping at a breakfast or homework club, or at an extra curriculum group – sports clubs, drama groups etc
  • Joining a parent-teacher association or ‘Friends of the School’ or become a Governor – and so becoming a vital link between parents and school
  • Mentoring students – with students needing good role models who are prepared to listen
  • Support the staff who often feel stressed – praying for them, listening, offering practical help and showing appreciation
  • Pray, and set up a prayer support group.

Share your story

Already ahead of the game by volunteering in your community? Please use our FaceBook page to share your story – good or bad – to inspire and help others.

Peter Meadows

Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director. He uses his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives, enjoy his eight grandchildren, escape to Spain and spend his kids’ inheritance.

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

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 afterworknet.com

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