What To Do

Faced with the reality of a significant number of retired and active Christians in their midst, how can a church leader act?

Here are some suggestions…

  • Look out for those heading for retirement

    About six months before someone is due to take their step away from full-time paid work, meet with them over a coffee or a pint or whatever. An hour with you will help a soon-to-be retiree feel valued, know someone cares and leave them more able to deal with their future.

    The aim of your time with them is –

    • To make sure they know you understand and are there for them
    • To pray with and for them in this big transition
    • To take the first steps in helping them set some guidelines and priorities for when the time comes
    • To do a lot of listening

    Ideally, you will also be able to link them with someone who has been this way before – to share what they have learned, good and bad.

  • Treat them as a distinct church segment

    Almost certainly your church has programmes for children, youth, families, the elderly, and so on. In the same why, it is time to regard those ‘retired and active’ as another defined segment.

    And don’t consider it done until there is –

    • A small group taking responsibility for creating and arranging their own programme
    • A simple mission and vision statement – why we exist and what we want the outcome to be
    • A budget line in the church accounts to support it
  • Encourage the activities they need

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

    Spending time with their peers: This need be no more than a small number of activities that have their focus on learning from each other.

    A way to kick start this is to hold a ‘Let’s Meet’ week. This involves –

    • Finding hosts for a range of options like a coffee morning, light lunch or afternoon tea. Resist dinner, as it can be over-demanding on the host
    • Displaying a sign-up list for all the hosted events – with names, email addresses, etc.
    • At the event, have two or three share the joys and struggles in their post-work life and also some of their hopes. Then use this as the basis for discussion.

    This could be in the wider context of an occasional social activity – a walk, ten-pin bowling, a bike ride, a trip somewhere. Even a one-off project they could commit to like painting the home of someone in need.

    All will provide opportunities for those with the same challenges and opportunities to share their lives.

    Addressing relevant issues: For example, an event with someone speaking on the issues of stress or loss of status – followed by discussion. This might even be something to which your retirees could invite their non-church peers.

    Or, in the same way that your church may hold marriage prep classes or parenting courses, there could be 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, having a seasoned retiree matched up with a newbie could be a great asset.

  • Have realistic expectations

    You may imagine someone no longer in full time work has lots of free time. But reality can be very different.

    There may well be three generations of their family having expectations and demands on their time – their children, their grandkids and their elderly parents.

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

    This makes it is wise not to make assumptions – or judgments when the answer is ‘no’.

  • Don’t use them – develop them

    Historically, churches have tended to see those who enter retirement as rota fodder. Yet they still need opportunities to grow and develop spiritually and practically.

    So look for ways to tap into 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 that are sitting waiting and then find a role that fits them.

    This may even open up new opportunities for your church’s life and ministry. Imagine having –

    • A customer service ex-professional to help improve all the ‘touch points’ your church has with its members and community
    • A small group of entrepreneurs given the freedom to think outside the box to recommend what could be done with your premises or programmes
    • A journalist or writer with the role to shape the content of your communications, turning the dull stuff usually produced by administrators into something more vibrant and engaging
    • A market researcher to develop an online survey to identify what your members see as their greatest needs
    • A well-read person helping you research facts, stories and illustrations to enrich your preaching

    The possibilities are endless. And the benefits could be rich for all concerned.

    However, don’t assume everyone wants more of their workplace role in their retirement. Some may welcome the opportunity to do something very different – like the office manager who has always longed to help at Messy Church or wanted to do something for God overseas.

    And don’t ask for a commitment that is from now until forever. They are more likely to give it a go if there is an agreed sunset – say, for the next twelve months.

  • Encourage them to be salt and light

    Your priority is likely to be the needs of your church. But with Jesus’ call to be salt and light, this is something to encourage and point them to. With the present welfare cuts and social needs, there are ample opportunities.

    This may be in the context of your church. But there are also wider opportunities – which will help influence your community and cause your retirees to strengthen their faith.

    This includes the obvious places like night shelters or food banks. But it may be to visit the lonely widower two doors down.

    A much needed step further would be to support and pray for them in their salt and light role, just as you do missionaries and those with other ministries.

  • 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 it is equally valid for the retired and active generation in view of their distinct culture, life experiences and present status.

    This is something churches are just starting to wake up to. And already some helpful thinking is in place for reaching the retired and active.

  • Think intergenerational

    Church programmes often work on the basis of being multi-generational – with each age group being self-contained. But some are seeing the potential of crossing the generations in ways other than for all-age worship.

    It takes some thinking but, for example, could a retiring engineer service the toddler group toys? Could someone with a long workplace experience help the youth group get ready for life beyond studies?

Do you have ideas or questions about serving those retired and active in your church? Please tell join our Facebook community and share them. And Sign Up to our blog .

If you are interested in having someone from AfterWorkNet come to your area to speak please contact us and we’ll do our best.

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