On any given Sunday there are Christians in our assemblies looking to retire from their work in the church. In the business world, retirement is expected around a certain age and is often heralded with a retirement party of some kind. Church retirement is not only greeted with much less fanfare, it’s also something that happens, for the most part, silently and unexpectedly. Unfortunately, many churches are pushing Christians into early retirement without even knowing it. Today’s post will examine the causes, problem of, and ways to fix retirement in the church.
The Causes of Early Retirement
The causes of church retirement are fairly obvious when written in an article like this, but are often missed in the week to week happenings of the church.
Burnout – Burnout occurs in even the most dedicated of Christians and can result from a number of different sources. For example:
- Christians can become burnt out when they do a job for a long time and are never given any appreciation for their work.
- Christians can become burnt out when they do the same job week after week, year after year, without much help and/or without a break.
- Christians can become burnt out when others swoop in and take a job they’ve been doing a long time away from them.
- Christians can become burnt out when they are asked to remain in a job even though their desire has moved to a different ministry.
Burnout tends to occur over a long period of time and, once it has set in, can result in the worker doing a poor job or leaving work altogether.
Shutdown – The second cause of early Christian retirement is what I’m calling “shutdown.” One of the easiest ways for a leadership to kill the working desire of a Christian is to constantly shut down their ideas. Unlike burnout, this can happen fairly quickly and tends to occur in Christians who are newer or younger in age.
Sometimes, early retirement is not a fault of the church as a whole, but of the mindset of individuals.
Mindset – Some older Christians might go into retirement because a younger group of Christians have recently joined the church. Alternatively, younger Christians might never step up (and therefore go into retirement) because the Christians who have been there a long time “have it all covered.”
The cause of “mindset” can happen to Christians of any age, and is often hard to identify in an individual.
The Problem of Early Retirement
From what I can tell, there is really one major problem from early Christian retirement:
The church desperately needs those retired people to work.
We’re living in a culture that regularly despises God, and those that don’t despise Him often despise organized religion. The fields aren’t exactly “white unto harvest” anymore. The church is dwindling and we simply can’t afford to have people in the church who just show up and sit down to never do anything.
To those Christians that are younger, we need your energy and excitement. We need your ability to create to make programs more inviting. We need your ideas for lessons and classes. We need your connections through events to introduce the church to new people. We need you to be active in serving the church.
To those Christians that are older, we need your wisdom and example. We need your knowledge of God to build us up. We need you to teach us, and guide us in a godly direction. We need your encouragement to keep going when the going gets tough. We need you to be active in serving the church.
The church needs every member of the body to be a servant, even if you find your role to be insignificant. If we don’t have you, we will fail in our mission to reach those around us.
The Solution to the Problem of Early Retirement
The solution to early retirement is pretty straightforward. Prevent burnout by talking to those who participate in worship. Challenge those who have worked for a long time to try something new. Get new people involved in order to relieve the duties of those who have been working in the same job for a while now. It’s also good to extend appreciation from time to time.
If the problem is shutdown, try listening to the ideas of those in your congregation. You don’t have to give the green light to every ministry that is suggested to you, but trying some out here and there will help your membership to feel like they have a voice the leadership cares about. New ministries, especially those led by the person who suggested it, tend to have a lot of excitement and energy around them. This energy could be the mini-revival of sorts your congregation needs. Don’t turn everything down, give the ideas of others opportunities to shine.
If the problem is mindset, teach your congregation in a better way. Show them people like Paul and John who worked until they had nothing left. Encourage them to work until our promised Sabbath rest of Hebrews 3-4. If we’re going to sing “We’ll work till Jesus comes” let’s encourage our churches to live it.
If you are someone who is burned out or hurt from being shut down, talk to the leadership of the church. No one wants you to retire and I promise you that you are needed. Give the leadership an opportunity to make things right with you.
Church, we’ve got too much work to do to just sit on the sidelines and let the “other Christians” take care of things. We are in the midst of a lost and dying world that needs Jesus. Let’s not hold Him back from them because we’re tired. Let’s work till Jesus comes, and let Him provide us with the most wonderful retirement of all.