Recently I mentioned to a friend that my wife and I will begin our retirement with a sabbatical. He looked at me oddly saying that sabbaticals are usually followed by a return to work. My response was that Christ still has good works for us to do in our retirement (Eph 2:10). In other words, a retirement sabbatical is a time to rest, reflect on past ministry, and discern God’s calling for our remaining years. Indeed, we are called to be a people zealous for good works (Titus 2:13-14). And there is no expiration date on that calling!
Essentially, a retirement sabbatical prepares us for a restart. The nine practices mentioned in the previous post can launch us into a fulfilling retirement. Moreover, they help us find meaning and purpose in our later years. A retirement sabbatical is an antidote to the boredom of endless vacation.1 See my first blog post in this series.
Restarting after our retirement sabbatical is a renewed expression of our identity and calling as we seek to finish well. Indeed, “calling is central to the challenge and privilege of finishing well in life (Os Guinness, The Call, p. 227). Guinness defines calling as:
Calling is the truth that God calls us to himself so decisively that everything we are, everything we do, and everything we have is invested with a special devotion and dynamism lived out as a response to his summons and service.Os Guinness, The Call, p. 4.
So, our retirement restart builds on the foundation of our identity and calling in Christ and finds a new expression in our current time and place. As those who are united with Christ, Scripture calls us to do everything in his name and for his glory (1 Cor 10:31; Col 3:17).
Living in Retirement
During our sabbatical, we develop our answer to the question “What are you going to do in retirement?” Yes, there is a place for work in retirement. In his book Reimagine Retirement, Cagle identifies three types of work: creative, productive (or paid), and service.
Creative work is done for the sheer joy of it.2 Reimagine Retirement, kindle loc. 2496 For instance, we may cultivate a craft or art like woodworking or photography. Yet, some may want to engage (or need to) in work for pay. But service to others ought to take priority. Surely there are many opportunities in retirement to serve our families, churches, and communities.
In addition to the six questions quoted in the previous post for discerning our calling, Haanen provides five questions3 Jeff Haanen, An Uncommon Guide to Retirement, p. 90-93. to help us restart and plan our work in retirement:
- What is God calling me to do?
- What will be different from my career? And what will be similar?
- How many hours per week will I work?
- What kinds of work do I want to experiment with?
- How will I balance and embrace my different calling in retirement?
These questions apply to all three types of work: creative, productive, and service work. Additionally, we should plan for periodic review because our energy level five years into retirement may be significantly different from the start.
Building the Next Generation
Part of our restart is deciding how we will invest in younger people. The Scriptures teach us to build the next generation.4 See for example, Psalms 71:14-18, 78:1-8, 145:4. Cagle comments:
. . . our purpose is clear: we are called to invest ourselves in the lives of others, both inside and outside the church, and to persevere in godly zeal as we grow old so that we can finish well to the glory of God ( 2 Timothy 4:7). . . .
One of the most valuable ways that older Christians can serve is to mentor and disciple those who are younger. Younger Christians need older role models who can also be their friends.C.J. Cagle, Reimagine Retirement, Kindle loc. 962.
Coaching and Mentoring
Coaching and mentoring are distinct. Yet they can work together. Let’s define some terms.
Coaching is an ongoing intentional conversation that empowers a person or group to fully live out God’s calling.Keith Webb, The Coach Model for Christian Leaders, Kindle loc. 226.
Mentoring is a relational experience through which one person empowers another by sharing God-given resources.Paul D. Stanley and J. Robert Clinton, Connecting: the Mentoring Relationships You Need to Succeed in Life, p. 12
I once heard a good definition of a mentor: Someone whose hindsight can be someone else’s foresight.C. J. Cagle, Reimagine Retirement, Kindle loc. 962.
From the definitions above we see that both coaching and mentoring seek to empower those who are being helped. One difference between coaching and mentoring is that mentoring focuses on the relationship, not just the conversation. Yet, that is a bit of an oversimplification. In my opinion, coaching ought to be a tool in the mentoring relationship.
Formal mentoring relationships don’t always work out. So, Jeff Haanen suggests supplementing mentoring with intergenerational friendships:
Today many are swapping a traditional idea of mentoring for the practice of intergenerational friendship. Steven Strott, a consultant with the Boston Consulting Group in his early thirties, explains, “Rather than a transfer of wisdom from an august elder to an unseasoned youth, mentorship should be supplemented with the idea of intergenerational friendship, a relationship that flourishes across an age gap, to the mutual enrichment of the younger and the older.”Jeff Haanen, An Uncommon Guide to Retirement, p. 144, 145.
Certainly, cultivating friendship between mentor and mentee will make mentoring more enjoyable and lasting. Haanen lists five characteristics of skilled mentors. These mentors:
- find genuine delight in the next generation and develop friendships based on common interests.
- bless and affirm a younger generation.
- share their stories and are genuinely vulnerable with their mentees.
- are patient and commit to long-term relationships.
- ask more questions than they give answers.5Jeff Haanen, An Uncommon Guide to Retirement, p. 149-151.
During a retirement sabbatical, we can look for opportunities to develop intergenerational friendships based on mutual interests. For instance, fishing, hiking, woodworking, baking, or biking might be avenues to develop friendships with younger people. Another option is to look for an ethnic community from the country where you served. An additional benefit to this is the opportunity to continue using the language you worked so hard to learn. Also, do not neglect your own family. Your grandchildren also need to hear your stories.
In short, it is appropriate to begin retirement with a sabbatical because we will emerge from the sabbatical refreshed to restart our engagement with family, church, and the community where God has placed us until he calls us home.