Much to give: An open letter to my pastor about retirement

In this retirement series, we are exploring various aspects of the faith, work, and economics movement for retirees. How do you pastor those within your pews each week who are not only no longer compensated for work within office walls, but who also face some of life’s most difficult questions about mortality and the sorrow aging often accompanies? Imagine this letter coming from one of your parishioners. How would you answer her? Retirees’ work is essential to the flourishing of the church and our communities, yet they are often the forgotten of society. We hope this letter sparks a conversation in your life about how to better serve and equip retirees for a new season of work.

Dear pastor,

Thank you for asking me to write to you about how Nabil and I are doing with retirement. Actually we’re just more or less retired — not going to work at offices anymore, but our days are still full with other kinds of work.

I have to say Nabil and I are so grateful for everything the church has made available in terms of help with planning, end of life decisions, and more. If we are honest, though, we have other issues, too. Some of these issues can be grouped under space, time, and matter. In all three areas we’re dealing with major changes, and we need help thinking through how to use this season well.

In terms of space, our house is too big — too big to care for and too big for our needs. In this area, it’s a case of “less is more.” As for the issue of matter, we’re experiencing the changes of aging in our bodies. No crises, thank God, but it feels like decline, like “less and less.”

We need help processing so much transition all at once.

One of the questions we often ponder is how our lives will look different even in just a few short years. If we live into advanced old age, our bodies will inevitably decline into disability, dependence, and ultimately into death. We think of our own dying and the deaths that are coming to those close to us and wonder how we’ll handle that. Looking ahead to the inevitable, how do we prepare? Will the church be there for us? If we’re immobile, will the church come to us? If one of us becomes the caregiver, will the church know what kind of help we need? If I can no longer be giving of time, talent and treasure, do I still have standing and membership? These are the types of questions that often fill our days.

Regarding time, Nabil and I both have more and less — more in terms of hours, less in terms of years. We want to use our newly available hours for the good of others and for the kingdom. We want to know those hours have significance. We desire to do meaningful work with our hands. For this to happen, we need a vision for our remaining years. Is there a way our church can help us think through how to use these next years well?

We believe we still have a lot to give.

While we have much to give, we still need connections, including relationships with younger people. Unfortunately, ageism is a real thing. Some structure and means for cross-generational relationships might let us press through that unfamiliarity with older people. Maybe the church could find a way to recognize and make a place for our gifts and ministries, a way to make our experience available to people we could help. Of course, just because people are older doesn’t mean they are mature Christians. Some may be old in years but young in the Lord. They also need discipleship, teaching, and help with spiritual disciplines. This is a place older people like us could make a difference for younger believers.

I wish I knew what would be the most help for me, for us as a couple and a family, and for others in the church in our stage of life. I know there are people in the congregation who have gone through this and could be called alongside to give advice and counsel. Could the church schedule a meeting to be introduced? These are the questions that fill our sleepless nights, and we hope you can help us think through some of them.

It helps just to have your kind concern and your prayers for us to make wise decisions. Some personal time with someone to talk through all this in the presence of a listener, someone who will process with us and pray with us, would help. We hope for someone from our local church to stand with us, to know us, and be known by us.

Peggy

Topics: Christian Life, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Practices, Retirement

About the Author

Peggy is an active lay leader in her church. She returned to school in 2007, completing a BA in religious studies, and then a master of divinity at Regent University. She and her husband, Nabil, who is from the Middle East, have been active in the local church since the 1970s and have traveled widely as part of evangelistic teams.