Perhaps you are considering a time in the future when you will retire from a career. Perhaps you have just retired and are wondering, “What now?” Maybe you’ve thought there is NO way you can EVER retire because of financial or personal reasons. All of these are thoughts I had over many years of vocational ministry. But I did retire in 2017. I knew I’d completed my work there and it was time for new blood to move LifeWay’s ministry to women to the next level.
I have learned much since retiring after over 22 years at LifeWay. Never having planned for a career outside my home, I have always stood in awe of what God has led me to do to serve Him, especially since it was vocational ministry—something I never aspired or sought to do. But in obedience to God’s call, I had to overcome fears and feelings of inadequacy to teach and lead women through my church, and then, through a denominational position. It has been an unexpected blessing—although very difficult at times—that has humbled and blessed me enormously.
When God began to show me that I was to retire in 2017, I knew it was right. I never doubted it or wished I could change my mind. I had no regrets at all!
But even so, I experienced some surprises and challenges. Prayerfully, I hope this will help you if you are considering retirement in the near future or are already there.
Leaving Your Work
Unless you have no choice because of a job downsizing or family issue, pray and ask God’s direction on when to retire. He knows better than you what the plan is, and He cares about every detail of your life. Pray and then move as the Holy Spirit leads.
When I decided to retire at 65, it just felt right. That last year of work, God affirmed that decision over and over. If He had indicated I was to continue working, I would have done that. Instead, He reassured me throughout that last year and gave me one of the sweetest years of my career. (P.S. When I considered retiring MUCH earlier in a tough ministry season, God would not allow me to leave. I would have missed some of the most fruitful years of serving at LifeWay!)
How do you handle preparing the next person if someone is going to succeed you in your work position? Be willing to help train your replacement or at least to orient them to the way you have handled your work, while allowing for the successor to take what they need to develop the role into something even better! Don’t withhold information that could help her be successful. If it was to continue “your way,” God would not be calling you out of that place.
Pray for your successor what Elisha asked when he was about to take the position of Elijah as prophet in Israel: “Please, let me inherit two shares of your spirit” (2 Kings 2:9b).
He wasn’t being arrogant; he knew he needed power to continue the work of Elijah. If we are serving humbly, we want those coming behind us to do well—and even better than we did.
I love the lines in Rick Pino’s song, “Pioneer,” that say: “And what you have done, others will do bigger and better and faster than you. But you canʼt look back. You gotta keep on pressing through. Thereʼs a wilderness pathway, and itʼs calling you.”
God is not finished with you even though you may be leaving your current place of working and serving Christ, whether secular or vocational ministry. What you have done has laid the groundwork for the next person to succeed you well.
When I left my church staff position to take on the role at LifeWay, I felt as though I left a newborn behind. I, along with a wonderful team of women, had the joy of having “birthed” a women’s ministry. But after I left, God brought a leader who would take the ministry to levels I couldn’t have. I loved seeing God use her to grow that baby up! He showed me that He loves His ministry more than I do!
As I left my position at LifeWay, I knew God would do the same thing and had no concerns! When our work is over, He still has a plan for us and for that work. We can rest assured, especially if we love the work God has called us to.
Living Life at Home
A year ago, I wrote a post to sum up what my husband Pat and I have experienced and learned since I retired. To be honest, we never expected anything but great times together. We had been married 46 years at that time, and we not only loved but also liked each other! We enjoyed wonderful times together. We had also weathered quite a few tough life situations in those 46 years.
We were excited about having more time together and the ability to set our own schedules. My husband had retired seven years earlier and had already settled into his retirement routine. When we began to get in each other’s way and irritate one other over minor things, we had no idea what was happening. We both had expectations of what this new life was to look like, assuming each would adjust to the other’s routines! It took lots of prayer and patience to learn to live together 24/7 for the first time in our marriage.
One of my greatest joys is to have unhurried time with the Lord daily! I’m learning more about His Word now than ever before. I have more time to serve in new ways in my own church. I loved turning off my 4:30 a.m. alarm the last day I drove to my office and getting eight hours of sleep a night. It’s wonderful not packing every week for another trip. (Although I still LOVE getting to travel and teach women with a less packed calendar!) I still have a daily agenda, but it looks MUCH different than before retirement.
Preparing for Transitions
Last but not least, keep in mind: no matter your situation or your life stage, you WILL have a transition. No matter how prepared you are for retirement, it means change. Some changes you may expect, and others will take you by surprise as my husband and I found out!
Another part of the transition is that you may begin to question your continued usefulness and purpose in life now that you don’t have those “built in” assignments. I asked God how I could continue to serve Him in meaningful ways in this season. Did I even matter now? Did I still have something to share?
In essence, I questioned my identity. For so many years, a big part of my identity was teaching and leading women in both small and large venues. But I also realized along the way that it had nothing to do with me and everything to do with Christ! I had just been an instrument to accomplish His work in this way for those 22 years. My purpose is still the same, but the way I continue to serve in ministry looks very different.
Be careful not to see your identity only in your vocational work, whatever that may be. Often work makes us feel needed and important, and once you retire, you may miss those accomplishments.
Celebrate what God has done through you at whatever workplace you have had, but remember, it was all about Him and how He used you in this way. Now, He will reveal how He wants to use you in this new season as you continue to give Him glory. As we see in Psalm 115:1, “Not to us, Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory because of your faithful love, because of your truth.”
Five Things to Do Now
- Take time to celebrate your retirement.
- Take time to reengage at home full time.
- Take time to rest and enjoy sleeping in.
- Take time to ask God His plan for each day in this season.
- Take time to continue serving Christ with your whole life.
I pray you navigate your transition into retirement in the strength and peace of Jesus. It’s a new season with endless opportunities to glorify God!
Chris Adams is an author, speaker, blogger, and women’s ministry consultant. Chris helped pioneer women’s ministry as we know it today and compiled three women’s leadership books: Women Reaching Women: Beginning and Building a Growing Women’s Ministry, Transformed Lives: Taking Women’s Ministry to the Next Level, and Women Reaching Women in Crisis. Prior to her employment at LifeWay, she was the special ministries coordinator at Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler, Texas, overseeing women’s ministry and missions education. When Chris is not consulting, speaking to women, or training women’s ministry leaders, you can find her reading, with family, or spending time at the beach. She married Pat in 1971, and they have twin daughters, two sons in law, 7 grandchildren, 7 bonus grands, one great-grand, and a 7-pound Yorkie named Mo. Twitter & Instagram: @chrisadams4 Facebook: Chris Adams Web site: www.chrisadams.blog