To Retire . . . Or Not to Retire?

The subject of retirement naturally breeds confusion. In working with Nav Encore staff, the question of retirement comes up often—or it should come up. Retirement offers obvious benefits, but there are potential pitfalls as well.
   
Retirement is a fairly recent phenomenon. Until the last century, either (a) you didn’t live long enough to worry about it or (b) you worked until you were physically incapacitated or dead. That’s one aspect of the good old days that I don’t yearn for!
   
Unfortunately, retirement has been a bad word for those in ministry. Retirement hinted at quitting the racenot being a finisher, losing the vision, and embracing a worldly view. But is it possible that in some respects we actually have “finished the race,” as Paul put it? Or that the race can take on a different form?
   
In my case, the energy and resources to minister that I had even a decade ago has changed dramatically. It’s hard not to beat myself up over this. But if I do, I am ignoring the science of the body: the outer is truly decaying while the inner is being renewed.
     
One blessing of Nav Encore is the grace and recognition that, as seniors (no, I don’t like that term either) we have limited capacities. Paul exhorts us to marshal our gifting and fine-tune our strengths: This one thing I do. Nav Encore already has helped us hone our gifting, and God has been honoring that. We intend to keep on keeping on. As I explained to our donors, next year we will retire, but in reality we are just changing paymasters (retirement, 401K’s, IRA’s, Social Security, and the like).
     
In retirement we are just slowly lifting our foot off the accelerator. I am excited about traveling with my bride. We are inspired by friends who drove their RV across the country, ministering to those who were in their ministries through the years.
     
I am genuinely excited about retirement. I have hobbies I would like to pursue more fully when we retire. (No, not golf!) One of the greatest benefits of being Nav staff is that the two really became one because of ministry. Because we will stay in ministry, boredom will not be in our vocabulary.
Shifting to a more delicate subject, could there be another reason we don’t consider retirement? Could financial security be more of an issue then we care to admit? Have we inadvertently made an idol of income? Are we willing to live on a smaller budget, like most retired Americans? In fairness, some staff have difficult circumstances that require a steady income. However, that is the exception.

Finally, in retiring, we free up resources for our ministry partners to give to younger staff. Who does not remember how challenging it was as young staff to come on board fully funded? It’s even more difficult today! Retiring can make more resources available for the next generation.
     
These are issues that many of us would prefer to ignore. However, as Nav Encore staff, if we have not walked through these subjects we are not being fair to ourselves or to the younger staff. I encourage you to discuss this with each other and with your supervisor as well.
   
God is more than gracious enough to walk with us through these issues, and His plan for each of us is unique. May He give all of us the wisdom and courage to ask the hard questions.


Tom Perkins is Nav Encore staff in Virginia.
 

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