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This article is part of The Third Third of Life Toolkit—a collection of resources for ministry to and with people ages 55 and over, brought to you by two ministries of the Christian Reformed Church in North America: Disability Concerns and Faith Formation Ministries.

One of the biggest misconceptions about retirement is that it ends our vocation. Vocation is about things God calls us to do, things we love to do and are passionate about—and for many of us, our vocation may have little or nothing to do with our career. The resources gathered here will help retirees rethink their retirement planning. They will also give church leaders some ideas about offering wisdom and guidance to retirees who are struggling with the transition into retirement.

  • The Second Mountain by David Brooks is a book that pastor Mark Nelesen encourages all pastors to read and discuss. It contains excellent insights on meaning and purpose in the third third of life, dealing with transitions, and the nature of true success.

  • The Search for Vocation in Retirement. This article from the Collegeville Institute explores the difficulty many people have in finding their calling or vocation after they retire. “Who am I apart from my professional work?” The article contains helpful links to videos and other resources.

  • Don’t Call It Retirement. Call It ‘Transitioning to a New Chapter.’ As life spans increase, we need to replace the word retirement with transitioning and look for new work or volunteer opportunities that fulfill our passions. The article contains helpful links to videos and other resources.

  • Jesus and the Third Third. Shawn Sikkema, a CRC pastor, tells how in the third third of his life he felt God calling him to begin a new ministry to the poorest of the poor in Denver.

  • Q&A. Reggie Smith responds to this question: “I don't want to spend my retirement years in a selfish manner. Where can I find resources that identify and describe opportunities to serve others? I'd like to find something I really enjoy.”

  • Retirement: A Second Vocation. Author Julia Burton-Jones says that the artificial retirement age in our society can be a harmful thing that marginalizes older people. She challenges older adults, both those who stay in their careers and those who find other meaningful pursuits, to remember that we are called to work for the kingdom our whole life. She notes, “We never retire from the Kingdom of God; rather we adjust our calling according to our abilities.”

  • Vocation in Retirement. Gene Edward Veith takes a careful look at biblical teachings about retirement. Consider this point, for example: “Retirement underscores two important facets of the doctrine of vocation: the purpose of every vocation is loving and serving our neighbors. And the way we make our living is only one of our vocations and not even the most important one.”

  • Finding a Vocation in Retirement. Deborah Williams challenges retirees to find new purpose by remembering that vocations, paid or unpaid, are activities you feel inspired to take on. She describes her own work of being a tutor as an example.


  • Churches often offer wisdom and guidance to young adults who are struggling to discern their vocation. How might we do the same for retirees?

  • If you are a third-thirder, spend some time thinking about how God is calling you to serve and live in your final third of life. What’s your vocation?


If you’re part of the Christian Reformed Church in North America and you have questions about how to strengthen your church’s ministry to and with people in the third third of life, one of Faith Formation Ministries’ Regional Catalyzers would love to talk with you about ideas and strategies.


Two things, I believe, are important regarding vocation in retirement: 1) While I functioned as a pastor and chaplain, my identity is not tied to those roles, be it they are still a part of who I am as a person; and 2) retirement provides me the flexibility to pursue callings without the concern of earning sufficient funds to live. God has no retirement plan. Retirement is simply as one title above puts it, "Transitioning to a New Chapter", with new opportunities to serve and give. The question always needs to be, "What is God calling me to do with my life now?", be that when employed or retired.
Lou Korf

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