Posts Tagged ‘retirement’

Glasco ChristianOne week ago we were worshipping with a little Christian church in Glasco, Kansas, of which in 1870, my great-great grandfather Mahlon Woodward and his wife Mary Ann were founding members.  After lunch at church with people who knew my grandparents and my dad, we accidentally went to a poetry reading that had been advertised as a Smithsonian program on Kansas waterways! I suppose towns of 500 can’t be picky!

Today, one week later, Sherrylee and I worshipped with the Omonia Church of Christ in Athens, Greece! Ten days or so ago, the missionaries in Athens put out a call for immediate help with their English program for refugees. Some very generous donors called us and said that they would sponsor us, if we were able to go, so here we are, getting ready to start tomorrow helping people mostly from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Kurdistan, and Afghanistan improve their English and become better acquainted with Jesus. 

MunichOur international flight was via Munich, a new airport, but the same city where in 1971 two pretty clueless young newly-weds landed and began their mission journey together.  We are slower than we were then, but wiser, I hope—certainly more experienced.  While we have definitely changed, the world has changed also. When we left for Munich in 1971, Christians faced Iron Curtains and Cold Wars and Walls. We could just barely drive to Berlin back then, much less the Arab world. Now Christians can go to a small church building in Athens and work in the Middle East. Look around your neighborhood and tell me the world has not changed and that the nations are not coming!

So we may need to work differently than we did forty-six years ago, but people are still riding around in their chariots and saying, who will help me understand what I’m reading here about Jesus.  And God still uses those he has used before–regardless of their job status or age–to serve and teach Searchers.

Sherrylee and I will be in Athens for three weeks, and I hope to post regularly.  Pray for us—for health and strength and courage and boldness.

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rocking chairIf your church is putting the Boomers out to pasture, you are making a big mistake!

Yes, I am one of the oldest Boomers, and I’d like at least to speak out for almost forty million Boomers born in the first half of the Boomer years (1946-1955), and what I say is probably true for the other 40 million born in the last half of the Boomer cycle (1956-1964).  Almost eighty million Boomers!

Here’s how you will know if your church is putting Boomers out to pasture:

  • You move your preaching minister out at age 59 for someone younger to attract a younger demographic.
  • You decide to disregard the preferred worship styles of everyone over 50.
  • No one over 50 teaches anyone younger than 50 in your educational program.
  • Your “senior” ministry is mostly eating and social activities, carrying for the sick and home-bound, and singing “foot-stomping” gospel songs.

 One out of every four persons in the United States is a Boomer!  And the percentage in your church is probably much higher because the Boomers, though some wandered off momentarily during the 60s,  returned to their churches shortly thereafter and have been faithful, though less traditional than their parents ever since.  Can you really afford to dismiss one out four people in the general population?

Another reason not to dismiss the Boomers is because they aren’t going to quit working! Sixty-seven percent say they are either delaying retirement or will never retire!  Every church longs for more involvement and investment of time by its members. Who has more time?  The younger dads and moms with three kids under 12, trying to grow their career and their family?  The parents of teenagers, trying to both work while running between school activities and ball games?  Or the empty-nester Boomers?

Here’s another reason not to ignore your Boomers:  “The typical U.S. household headed by a person age 65 or older has a net worth 47 times greater than a household headed by someone under 35, according to an analysis of census data released Monday” (Pew Research Center 2011).   Another source cited, “Baby boomers control over 80% of personal financial assets and more than half of all consumer spending.”

So let’s talk about who gives!  And let’s talk about who will continue to give over the next 10-20 years!  According to the Convio study (2010), the average Boomer contributes $901 per year, whereas a Gen Xer gives $796, and a Gen Yer  $341 per year.  Even though the individual difference between the Boomer and GenXer is not amazingly large, when you multiply that difference by the difference in group numbers, it makes a big difference! The annual total for Boomers is 47.1 billion compared to $28.68 billion for GenXers.

What I’m saying is that if you are already dismissing the Boomers, putting them out to pasture, then you are ignoring or retiring the most numerous and the most charitable people in your church, and those who have the most disposable time!

These are likely people who invented the word anti-establishment but who are probably still loyal to their tribe!  Also, while being very sympathetic and eager to support the social justice causes about which their children care so deeply, the Boomers are still evangelistic and understand the need to carry the Gospel in word as well as deed.

Every generation has to pass the torch of leadership.  Boomers will continue to be available for service, for leadership, and for active, meaningful participation in their church for twenty more years—and that’s a good thing!

Younger church leaders would do well to capitalize on this demographic in their churches, not caricature it!   

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Sherrylee and I attended a wonderful celebration yesterday for Dr. Ken Adams and his wife Lindy at Oklahoma Christian University. Ken is retiring after serving forty years as the choral director and as professor/mentor for literally thousands of students.  About two hundred chorale alumni came from all over the country to participate in a final concert last Sunday in his honor.  Hardeman Auditorium was packed—and profoundly moved by the beautiful music of Karl Jenkins’ The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace,  written in 2000 for the Millennium celebration.  If you appreciate classical music, let me strongly recommend you order a copy of this piece immediately!

One of my strongest thoughts as Ken masterfully directed the full orchestra and the two-hundred voice choir was why is he stopping now?  This may have been one of his greatest performances, so he is not suffering from diminished capacities!  He is not old! (Somewhere I read that Baby Boomers don’t think a person is old until they are around 78.) He is not ill!  So why does one retire from doing what one still loves and can do so well?

According to the statistics that I just found, only 20% of Americans between 60-64 are still in the workforce.  In the UK, it is only 10%, and these cousin nations rank far above most other industrialized countries. Austria, Belgium, France, and Italy have only 1% in that age bracket still employed, and Spain has ZERO per cent!

Spain is #8 in rankings for life expectancy (80.9 years) and the US is #36 (78.3). In fact, all of the above countries have a higher life expectancy than the U.S.   But even without quibbling over a few months, on the average most of us have 15-20 years of life left after we retire!

Retirement, as a social policy, is just a little over a century old, so Jesus was never faced explicitly with this issue; however, those commissioned to take his words to the world did sometimes live longer.

I’m thinking about the Apostle Paul—most likely in his sixties–writing to Timothy and saying, “Well, I’ve been working now for over thirty years, so I’m thinking about retiring so I can do things that I’ve been wanting to do—travel, visit my relatives in Tarsus, just hang out with Peter’s grandchildren.  I’m just tired of the constant pressure to produce, the hassle from the brethren, even just the burden to write all these letters.  No, I’m just ready to call my own shots –while I’m still healthy and can enjoy life.”

What’s wrong with this picture?

Our confusion regarding retirement, I’m convinced, occurs when we confuse retirement from employment with retirement from our life, our passion, our purpose, our commitment, yes, retirement from our faith and from faithfulness.

If Jesus had been a carpenter for thirty or forty years, he might have stopped at some point in life, but, whether he was 30, 60, or 90 years old, He would have never stopped being the Son of God. He was the one who said, “As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work” (John 9:4).

Paul might have closed his tent-making company down at some point in his later years, but he would never stop going to the synagogues to speak on Saturday or down to the river where the prayer group was meeting, searching for Seekers.

And Ken and Lindy will always be great servants. They won’t stop being who they have been because of retirement. If anything, they will likely find even better ways to serve God and those around them.

I want to retire someday too—but what I really, really want is to write as my last words what in his last days Paul wrote to Timothy:   “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

Jesus might have retired—but He would never have quit! 

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