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Stages of Retirement…and What We Can Learn about Leadership

No matter your age or stage in life—pastor, spouse, esteemed lay leader—I have a short Ted Talk, “The 4 Stages of Retirement,” that I want to recommend.

First, a bit of context… 

Our Reality

I’m obviously a big fan of 1,000 Young Leaders and seeing young adults—who know that God is calling them to “something” in the Kingdom but don’t know what and don’t know how—emerge 10 months later as passionate, focused, and intent on being part of God’s work in any number of mission-focused ways. It’s big. Especially with a next generation leadership pipeline that’s about to drip dry. (Watch next week for some highlights from the 1,000 Young Leaders Nashville Gathering this summer.)

I talk to people, pastors a lot of the time, for whom the calling still burns hot, but over the last two years were boosted into the Great Retirement or Great Discouragement or Great Resignation. 66% say 2020 or 2021 were the most difficult years in ministry. (Good or bad, 29% say “No, I’ve had worse!”) –Harvard Institute of Religion

There is and there will be a larger flow of pastors migrating from full-time ministry to co-vocational ministry where a marketplace job becomes their daily mission field for which most are not prepared.

And, what about the talent pool in your church of people that are now retired? Possibly settling for something less than what God might be calling them to be?   

Looking for a Solution

All of this? It’s not a Ted Talk solution. It might spark an idea. But, ultimately, it’s about not being isolated but being embraced in community.

So, the Ted Talk I recommended. I was exercising the other day listening to a Ted Talk and this one cycled up next. I listened. I learned. I liked it. Watch “The 4 Stages of Retirement.”  

4 Stages of Retirement

Stage 1    Vacation…   

“Wonderful”–he says. “For about 13 months” –he says.

Stage 2   Loses meaning, relationships, respect…   

“Brace for it” –he says. “It’s coming.”  –he says. Fear, anxiety, possibly depression! An “is this it?” finally is met with an “I can’t continue like this” that gives way to…

Stage 3   Experimentation and discovery…   

“Try things.” –he says. “Don’t be afraid to fail a bit.” –he says  

Stage 4  “Squeeze the juice out of life” (We’d have more sanctified words.)  

“Not everyone gets here.” –he says. “It’s worth pushing through.” –he says.

I had a wise person tell me: Every organization I know (PLI, churches, etc.) should be dedicating 15% of its resources (time, money) to experimentation. 

While the world accelerated through a generation of change in 18 months we stopped experimenting.

Two applications:

  1. There’s a lot of us leaders in stage 2 now! Let me simply invite you to join together. Bring hope to each other.    
  2. What if you made two lists: Young adults that you believe in. And not-so-retired and retired folks with a mission spark but they don’t know what and they don’t know how. Email me: “Here are my lists! Let’s talk!”       

Whatever your age or stage or role… thanks for walking in response to the life and death of Jesus and leading with integrity. I’ll wait for your reply.

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