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10 June, 2022

Retirement & the Kingdom

Retirement & the Kingdom

Elsewhere, I suspect, retirement blogs are devoted to things like holidays, hobbies and health: the sort of things that your colleagues engage you in conversation about as your last day approaches. In contrast, this piece is a perspective of using our gifts and talents in a new chapter of our lives, to serve the Kingdom of God.

It is often said that there is no retirement for a Christian, and many people entering retirement do discover a new lease of life. Time gained can permit new opportunities, activities and adventures in Christian ministry. One area that we may consider, is to use some of our retirement time to serve our church’s social action (or mercy) ministries. This is not to be seen purely as ‘practical’ service, rather social action must always be set within the broader context of life as a child of God, sharing the gospel with others, and playing our part in a disciple-making culture. In this sense it is true, that there is no retirement for any Christian!

We will all have different experiences of this stage of life, but if you have just retired, or are planning to leave your paid work soon, here are just some of the things I have been learning.

Take time out
Retiring from full time work - even part time work - is not easy! Those who have worked in environments with other people around and with familiar routines – sometimes for thirty or forty years (or more) – will find that adjusting to a new lifestyle, without the old familiar routines, does take some effort.

We might also have to deal with feelings of regret, that perhaps we didn’t achieve all we might have done in our paid work, or even ask if the lifetime of work was worth it. Although the past has irretrievably gone, we may still need help to process these sorts of feelings.

With new freedoms and time for ourselves we need to keep God-centred. We all want to have purpose in our lives and need to be occupied, so we need to take time to consider our next steps. Retirement can be a big change to the system so it is good to make some space to relax, be refreshed physically and spiritually, and to reflect on what God has for us next. In scripture we can see that God initiates rhythms and routines to bring us rest, and that His desire in doing so is for us ultimately to become more God-centred not more self-centred. This is a helpful, and very counter-cultural, corrective for Christians hitting retirement.

What next?
When Moses felt inadequate to serve God, we read in Exodus 4:2 that he was asked the question, “What is that in your hand?”. When we retire, we will need to take time, open our hands before God, and ask, where should I now be using my time, my energy and investing my money?

It may be advisable not to rush into new things. It can be easy at retirement to immediately want to find something to do - to be useful – and it can be tempting to respond to the first approach to get us involved in this or that activity or ministry.

Some people who are retiring will already be involved with a church social action project. It may well be the right thing, carrying the same passion, to redouble our efforts in that area; but don’t necessarily assume that the additional time you now have in retirement is to be used in the same place, or for this work alone.

Consider your gifts
When we think about social action ministries in particular, we should not underestimate the wealth of specific skills and experiences gained in secular work which can be immensely valuable when transferred to our social action ministries. What do you find easy that others find hard? Consider the skills and background that you have. Perhaps:

- Experience of government and legislation in relevant areas like housing or benefits

- Financial expertise which can be invaluable in debt counselling

- Gifts of administration, technical or mechanical skills

- Medical and caring skills,

- Catering or artistic expertise (to name a few)

Retirement can be a new arena in which to maximise skills and to put past experiences to work for the Kingdom to a greater degree.

Retirement brings us not only more time but also more flexibility. Many social action ministries run by churches allow for people to serve in a flexible manner. While these ministries do need people with a heart for the specific work, they won’t necessarily call for full-time commitment. In addition, they often require a wide range of skills and aptitudes (or giftings) within the team. Take foodbanks as one familiar example: these depend greatly on volunteers, and usually operate with daytime shifts. Furthermore, the range of tasks involved is considerable, including food collection, warehouse work, packing food and delivering to users, or greeting those visiting the foodbank, often with opportunities to advise, comfort, or pray.

Another thing to learn in retirement is that not every day will be one of ‘doing’ or achievement. Our meaning does not come from what we ‘do’, though, at times like these, we should be discerning and honest about how fruitfully we are using our new time, not simply to enjoy ourselves (though don’t miss that!), but to serve Jesus. And, of course, we shouldn’t miss the fact that retirement can also give us more time for prayer and Bible study, and time to disciple others.


“…all my days were written in Your book and ordained for me before one of them came to be.” Psalm 139:16

In recent years social action has multiplied, as evangelical churches have re-engaged with their heritage of demonstrating biblical justice and mercy. In most local churches there will be specific opportunities to serve, to bring glory to God and do much good, through active mercy ministries. However, in the wake of the pandemic and at the frontline of a cost of living crisis, many now find themselves struggling to meet rising need.

Could it be that the God who ordained your days did so with specific purpose and design for this season of your life, and the lives of many others?


Written by Richard Wilson 

10 June, 2022

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