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This resource is brought to you by Thrive as part of a published resource called Retirement from Pastoral Ministry: Guidance for a Healthy Transition.

In a little while you will lay down your full time ministry, and step into whatever is next. A strong element of that is likely going to be more time to be at rest, at ease, and at peace. Enjoy that! 

Virtually every pastor that we’ve talked to about retirement has described something that they are either looking forward to or are already enjoying in the new season of their lives. Their eyes twinkle. The mouths turn up in smiles. Their joy is infectious. And the other retiring (or retired) pastors in the room nod knowingly. 

God gives good gifts! One is the gift of vocation. Another is the gift of a career in which to give expression to one’s vocation. And another is the season after full time ministry, the season of retirement, in which one gets to try and live out one’s vocation in a new setting– a prolonged time of refreshment. 

The same pastors whose eyes twinkle are quick to congratulate one another for “making it”. They know from personal experience that full time ministry as a career is a challenging one. They know, from painful stories of colleagues who have left ministry early, that retiring as a pastor is not a guaranteed outcome. And they know that there were many moments in each ministry career when an early exit seemed like the most reasonable response to the crisis at hand. 

The fact is that it has been the grace of God that has carried you through all along. You may have worked out your salvation (and your vocation) with fear and trembling, but it has always been God who has been at work in you, to will and to act according to his good purposes. He has given you words when they were needed. He has helped you to keep silent when silence was the best thing. He has sent challenges your way and allowed torments to occur so that your faith, like gold being refined by fire, may be proven genuine for the glory of Christ. And he has sent notes and signs of encouragement your way too, to lift you up and to lead you toward dependence on Him. 

The joy that comes with retirement is the joy of refreshment after a long season of work, and it is best savored when you can see your career through the lens of God’s providence, God’s forgiveness, and God’s renewal. God has always been at the center of it all– creating you in His image, calling you to your vocation according to his good purposes, equipping you by the Holy Spirit, sending you to work in His People, the Church, and forgiving your shortcomings through the work of Jesus Christ. 

Savor God. Savor what He has done through you. Savor your rest from the work. And savor the opportunity to live your vocation in new ways in retirement.

NOTE: This article comes out of a study of ministry transitions, done by members of the Thrive staff of the Christian Reformed Church in North America. The studied transitions include the transition from later career into retirement. The guidance here is part of a larger retirement resource that updates a 2006 resource called "Closing Well — Continuing Strong." The full updated resource, now titled “Retirement from Pastoral Ministry: Guidance for a Healthy Transition,” can be found here on the Thrive website.

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