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This resource is brought to you by Thrive and is part of a series designed for ministers who are making plans for their retirements.

We’ve already said it a few times along the way, but it’s worth saying again: Don’t do this alone! (1)

The transition out of full time ministry and into whatever is next is best engaged in conversation and collaboration with other people in your life. 

Let’s think more specifically about a few of them, particularly those who could be thought of as your “Closest Collaborators”: 

  1. Your family

Obviously, if you are married, then your primary conversation partner should be your spouse. God gave him or her to you so that you could walk through life and ministry with one another. And just like all of the transitions that you have encountered together so far, the transition into the season after full time ministry will also have an immense impact on both of your lives. There should be plenty of prayer together, and plenty of conversations about retirement well ahead of your retirement date. Couples are wise to engage outside conversation partners such as professional therapists, Spiritual Directors, or wise friends who can be expected to offer honesty, compassion, and love.

Among other things, you’ll want to talk regularly about your spouse’s hopes and dreams as well as your own, your spouse’s career plans, your family situation, your physical health, your family’s financial picture, and so on. A key conversation will be about your vocation, and how you plan to live out your vocation after full time ministry. Your spouse can help you to refine your understanding of it as you look ahead to your next season of life together. What is the calling of God upon your life that has served as the thread running through all the seasons of your life so far? How will that thread continue its run as you leave full time ministry behind?  

It might be wise to have a shared file or document of some kind on which both of you can name concerns, hopes, topics for discussion, key insights, decisions that have to be made, as well as decisions and commitments that have already been made.

If you have children who are able to join you in conversation then it would be wise to consult them as well. They may or may not have opinions on how you should pursue your retirement, but this conversation is another opportunity to connect with them over something meaningful and impactful.

  1. Your friends

You likely have friends who are in the same season of life or who are well into the next season of life and have experience with retirement. Make use of their experiences and wisdom– even those who are/were involved in different careers and pursuits. 

You also likely have younger friends, people for whom retirement is still a long way away. Invite them to speak into your life as people as well. They have walked with you and know you. They may or may not have opinions to share with you, but this conversation is another opportunity to connect with other people over something meaningful and impactful.

  1. Your ministry colleagues

Your fellow ministers know things about ministry life that no one else understands quite as easily and naturally. You could call it “experiential wisdom”. They can help you discern your own blind spots, leverage your own ministry experience, and be realistic about your expectations. On top of that, your ministry colleagues know you particularly and your unique ministry life! Feel free to invite them to weigh in as you make plans for retirement. 

It’s been mentioned already in this blog, but let’s recognize it again: The value of the conversation specifically about your vocation. The reflection questions at the end of the blog Deep Gladness, Deep Hunger: A Vision for Living Your Vocation in Retirement might be helpful to you again and again as you consult with your closest collaborators about the character and contours of your life’s calling and as you transition away from full time ministry.

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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