What to do with your time

Old gardenerMost workshops preparing people for retirement will have at their core the idea of developing an interest in new activities in order to give meaning to a life beyond employment.  While there may be an extent to which Christian workers may not relate to the idea of an empty meaningless life in retirement, developing plans for taking up new activities is a healthy part of managing retirement.  Evidence indicates that those who are able to use their retirement fruitfully have a healthier retirement.  There are many different walks of life in which this can be appropriate:

Mission. Ending a formal involvement with an agency doesn’t mean the end of mission.  Many agencies have programmes for involving their retirees as volunteers, in mobilising, mentoring, praying, interpreting, teaching and encouraging.  There continue to be plenty of opportunities for retired mission workers.  And with improved communications, these days it is possible to continue an involvement with church and agency in the country of service, though there are two pitfalls to watch out for with this: firstly it may result in failing to let go thoroughly and transition healthily into complete retirement, and secondly there is a risk of becoming inappropriately influential in a church or agency with which the formal link has been terminated and inadvertently undermining the new leadership.

Church.  Churches are always keen to have people with skills they can volunteer.  Retired mission workers can fill a variety of key organisational roles which will help them strengthen their links with a church that may have supported them for many years, but which they have not necessarily attended much.

Prayer.  Even when our physical health fails, we still have our ability to intercede, and this can be used to great effect in retirement.  Many retired mission workers play an active part in leading or attending prayer groups, or receive numerous prayer letters to pray through at home.

Charities.  Many charities have local volunteer programmes and are keen to find volunteer drivers, counsellors, tea-makers, shop assistants and all manner of workers.  A part-time role can create another interest in life and provide a whole new context for ministry.

Family.  Many retired mission workers help their children raise the grandchildren, and this can be a real blessing to busy working parents.  However it can be easy to take on too much commitment, as older people can find small children very tiring even though they love them.  Retired mission workers may also have parents and siblings who will enjoy spending time with them, and may need caring for.

Home.  Being retired may involve being at home more.  If you are married, you may see more of your partner – which may be good, but can also be a source of tension if you’ve spent most of your working lives apart during office hours.  Going on a marriage course may help you both think through the implications of spending more time together.

Hobbies.  Many of us had outside interests when we were younger, and gradually dropped them for lack of time as work and family took priority.  Retirement is an excellent opportunity to rekindle such interests, which can have therapeutic values particularly if they involve creativity, gentle exercise and intellectual stimulation.

Work.  Get a part-time job.  This can have multiple benefits: bringing in some extra money, creating missional opportunities, giving an opportunity to serve others, having a chance to make new friends, and giving you a new goal in life.

Study.  The early years of retirement can be a wonderful opportunity to reflect academically on the experience of mission by doing a PhD or Masters on some aspect of ministry which can then be used to inform and encourage the next generation.

Mentoring.  Many young people today are beginning to realise that older people have wisdom and experience, and are looking to connect.  Mentoring younger people at church, or on the mission field, could be a good application of all that you have learned.  It can also be done over the internet!

Though the outward person is decaying, on the inside we are being renewed daily!

(2 Corinthians 4:16)