Building a Foundation that Will Live On

Published: January 16, 2024

PLI has always placed a high value on a husband and wife learning together. Last week we listened in on the transition to retirement of Pastor Steve Sohns and Pastor Dave Bahn. This week we gain a glimpse of the transition from their wives’ points of view. Meet Ursula Sohns and Diane Bahn.

Diane Bahn

Ursula Sohns

Before we get into the transition to retirement conversation, tell me what was best about your PLI experience when you started with PLI 25 years ago?

Ursula: My father-in-law just asked me a few weeks ago about what has most significantly shaped my adult life. Without hesitation I replied, “PLI.” We were married about 15 years when we joined PLI. Parenting was challenging. Life was challenging. Steve had gone through a tough, draining season. Money was tight. PLI was the opportunity to do something together. It was huge for me to figure out who I was and how I was partnered with him. We both benefitted from the networks of relationships—encouraging relationships! PLI’s impact simply can’t be quantified. It was a breath of fresh air. 

Diane: I was learning alongside my husband as a full participant. I was learning such valuable insights for myself but also how I could be with Dave in a positive way.

And it was the community. Learning alongside like minded, mission-focused people. Going deep with them. It changed my life. And many of those relationships have lasted!

What would you say to leaders, particularly spouses, who are 20 or 25 years away from retirement?

Ursula: You’re building a foundation now that will live on in retirement… a foundation that’s not just around church work. 

Diane: I want women to see that they have influence and value! I lived so much of the time “for the next thing,” only to get there and sometimes I missed where I was and investing where I was.

Let’s talk about preparing for the transition to retirement! What did you do right?

Diane: I handed off responsibilities and trained and prepared the leaders that would follow me.

Ursula: I was a college professor and not as connected to Steve’s world. I retired ahead of Steve and had a chance to enter into some parts of his world that I would have missed.

What would you do differently?

Diane: I would have spent more intentional time looking for my next thing. But it was the pandemic. It was difficult to explore.

What did you prepare for WITH your spouse?

Diane: We planned some travel… But Covid undermined a lot of it. We thought about where we would want to live. Stay? Move? What Dave would do? What might I do?

Ursula: We planned the initial few weeks after retirement in particular. We rested. Took in sunrises. Enjoyed beauty. Planned an initial trip. That was a really good way to start to transition.

What was most difficult?

Ursula: Saying goodbye to the congregation. We were staying in the same community and we made a covenant to stay away from our church for a year. We were committed to the next pastor being able to establish himself and not have us in the way. You have to be committed to your successor’s success. Saying goodbye for a year was hard!

Diane: Loss of community. We made a similar covenant. I retired 3 months after Dave. I lost my church community and the relationships with my work. Most people retire from their jobs but they still have their church. We lost both for a year. It was very hard.

What was your biggest surprise?

Ursula: How hard it was!

Diane: There’s an identity that you lose. Where do I fit now? I was going to spend more time with my grandkids but that didn’t work because of travel and their schedules.

I’m an introvert that has worked in an extroverted role. I could easily default back. Sit. Read a book. Not be purposeful to still seek and build community.

You’ve both been very involved in delivering PLI training and coaching. More than a few reading your reflections today are facing enormous challenges in life and ministry right now. What do you want to say to them?

Diane: You’re not alone. Find a friend, a mentor, a coach. Formally or informally. If you’re in ministry, you can’t always talk to the people in your church like you’d like. But there are plenty of leaders ahead of you, retired or not, that would welcome the chance to walk with you.

Ursula: I agree. Twenty-five years ago our challenge was parenting, along with ministry. Find a few people that you can trust. And… you cling to God’s promises. He’s always faithful.

For 25 years you’ve both served in PLI one way or another. Generously supported it. Pointed leaders to PLI, 1,000 Young Leaders, and Multipli’s Genesis Leader. Why?

Diane: I believe in it. Just today I was telling a woman about 1,000 Young Leaders and Multipli’s Genesis Leader. She was excited. This is the future of the church!

I see the impact in leaders’ lives. Here. In Tanzania. Around the world.

Is there a Scripture you’d like to share?

Diane: Isaiah 43:1-2 — “I’ve called you by name. You are mine. When you pass through the waters I will be with you.” You’re not alone.

Ursula: Ephesians 3 — “God will do more than we can ask or imagine.” As I reflect back, I was such a nervous beginning pastor’s wife. I never thought God could use me like He has.

We can trust God. We don’t need to know everything. We need to be open to the opportunities.

Have you watched the Ted Talk we shared last year on the 4 stages to a successful retirement? Which stage are you in?

Ursula: Maybe still vacation?

Diane: Still experimenting I think. We started leading a small group in our home together. I’m still asking what comes next for me.

Any closing words? 

Diane: If you have the PLI opportunity, don’t pass it up. Sure, you’re too busy. You may feel it’s not the right time. But don’t pass it up.

Ursula: So, Jock, what will retirement look like for you? What are you and eventually Gail going to do?

Jock: That’s why I’m asking all these questions! I’m learning as fast as I can, Ursula.