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.


    1. Yes, you wrote a truly meaningful blog. Thank you! I add, last year, out of thankfulness, I have finally completed a book about how God worked in and through my life in forms of ‘letters to my daughter’ published by onward and upwards . I think, ‘ one of the great blessings of long life is the chance to look back and make sense of things’ It is good to reflect, their is power in reflection … Hanni

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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