What’s next? For the middle-aged among us, retirement looms, but often in a hazy distance. Given increasing lifespans and identities tied to work, when and whether to retire can be complicated, personal questions. Only the financial how of retirement is relatively straightforward and the subject of routine analysis. Almost entirely absent from discussion is the what of retirement. It is understood that the longtime worker is retiring from something. But what are they retiring to?
And what if churches recognized this question mark as an opportunity to create or revitalize ministries with older adults? What if congregations intentionally drew upon retiree expertise to extend ministries and community services? (Such matching of expertise/needs is surprisingly rare.) What if congregations grew in vitality by addressing retirees’ needs for purpose and belonging?
R. Jack Hansen and Jerry P. Hass, authors of Shaping a Life of Significance for Retirement (Upper Room, 2010), tackle this topic in a new title, Retirement as Spiritual Pilgrimage: Stories, Scripture, and Practices for the Journey (CreateSpace, 2016). In their introduction, Hansen and Haas write: “Our adult lives are marked by a variety of important transitions–everything from getting a driver’s license to leaving home to marriage … When a person retires, there may be a party; but often there is little recognition that this is a significant adult life transition with a whole set of unique opportunities and challenges. And the spiritual dimension of this passage is rarely recognized, either as an occassion for public prayer and guidance or in our own thinking and planning for this new phase of life.”
Based on in-depth interviews with retired men and women across the country, the book explores the personal transitions, unique opportunities, and challenges inherent in this new phase of life. Both titles are available in paperback and electronic formats, and are appropriate for workshops or reading groups. Please feel free to contact me for further reading suggestions on this topic.
Elizabeth Boyd is Congregational Resources Coordinator at Seabury Resources for Aging. When not visiting congregations, she is desperately attempting to keep pace with the bounty of her Crossroads Community Food Network farm share. To learn more about Seabury’s work with local congregations, email her at email@example.com. Sign up for Elizabeth’s monthly Congregational Resources eNewsletter, click here!