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Seven Virtues for Retired Ministers

By Keith Clements.

1. Thankfulness

No matter how much or how little we have done, we have all received much more than we have ever been able to give. With the end of full-time ministry of any kind comes the end of the need to ‘prove ourselves.’  No doubt many times we have preached salvation by grace through faith, now is the time to believe it.

2. An honest memory

This means freedom from the need to idealise (or even idolise) our past. When tempted to complain about churches and younger ministers today, let’s remember what we ourselves were like them early in our ministry, and that whatever we may claim to know now we only gradually learned, from others and through experience.

3. A readiness to let go

We are still called to service, but to serve is not to control. We can and should be available in ways that can be useful in church and society. Retirement brings the privilege of being able to do more of what we really want to do, whether or not we are paid for it! Let it be known that we are available, and carefully consider requests as they come in, but don’t be disappointed if you are not inundated with requests – maybe that’s a sign you should be thinking of something quite new (see 4. below)

4. A readiness for the new

Retirement is an opportunity for trying something we’ve never had time, opportunity or even inclination to do before, whether in a form of service, or study, or leisure activity. You might discover more of the ‘you’ than you thought was there before.

5. Discipline

Now that you’re ‘on your own’, free from the programmed routine and demands of church or organisation, it’s tempting to think you’ll be free of the treadmill of work. However, you may discover that the hardest taskmaster you’ll ever have to work for is yourself (see 1. above). Watch out for the signs: becoming at least as busy as you were before (a former college principal said after two years of retirement that he thought “it was a job for a younger man”). There is need for discipline. “This is the [time of your life] that the Lord has made. Rejoice and be glad in it!”

6. A large perspective

Nothing worth doing is completed in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope. Nothing true or beautiful makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore, we are saved by love.” (Reinhold Niebuhr). Cf 1 Corinthians 3:6f. A sense of proportion!

7. Capacity to dream

“…your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions” (Joel 3:28). Nothing here about the middle-aged (too busy keeping the show on the road)! Retirement should be a time when we’re set free to dream again, as in our youth, about the future of the church and the world, even if we not going to be around to see it. Let the imagination run riot and dare to share what you hope for. “Old men ought to be explorers” (T.S. Eliot). You’re only old once!

Keith Clements

Retired Baptist Minister

Ministry Today

You are reading Seven Virtues for Retired Ministers by Keith Clements, part of Issue 63 of Ministry Today, published in April 2015.

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