Generational differences can drive a Pastor crazy trying to discern the various needs and priorities of their congregation. What is absolutely vital to one generation barely garners notice to another. The retirement segment of a church bears this in greater distinction. Their needs are not as they once were. Disengaging from a career poses serious transitions. They may transition to a fruitful life even more distinguished than their previous career, or it can lead to utter failure, filled with bitter regard to all around them, even themselves.
Following is a simple four part guide marking the various challenges of ministry. Understanding their estate will open new possibilities of reaching them at their most urgent and “authentic” self.
FIP’s — Formerly Important Person
Once upon a time in their career they really did hold an important position in their company. They really did work their way to Vice President of Something, or even a CEO type with plush office and benefits. But now, some years on the other side of retirement things are different. No one is demanding their time or holding their life by what they may decide. Their grasp of power is only a memory.
They may hold to a sense of privilege, but now it only looks like a self-deluded sense of entitlement. Burn-out may have ended their career prematurely, which may now bring a liberating break from the confines of an oppressive past. No longing desiring to uphold their past life, they are very free to move on to greater satisfaction of their soul, but only if they can navigate past resentment and grudges.
“But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
— Philippians 3:13-14
MD’s and other professionals will feel the harshest brunt of their lapse of power, as they still imagine their power over others and will direct the good doctor in the details of his training.
Their big challenge is to live in the here and now, but how can they find personal value after all the glory days are past? Some never do and end up bitter, contrary and toxic to anyone who tries to help. Short of a visitation from Jacob Marley and three seasonal ghosts they must learn to let go of the deceiving past and embrace who they might be now.
They must reinvent themselves. They were once successful in their career, that inner drive is still present, but it needs to alter course into new adventure. Instead of high profits, it may now need to refocus into helping others achieve financial comfort in their post-retirement years. It likely will involve nothing of materialistic gain, but in the deeper spiritual cleansing and security of heavenly assurance. They may now finally be free enough to embrace the ever illusive life of personal contentment, which never did require a great bank account; just happiness in their self-fulfilled life in Jesus Christ.
NIP’s — Never an Important Person
Here’s your first clue to the Narcissistic Personality Disorder. The stories of superior human accomplishments eventually become remarkable; too remarkable. Rev. Philip Travers noted one situation that one need merely to use a calculator to see the absurdity of all the claims. This person would need to be at least 180 years old to have accomplished all that he claimed. It really did get just that ridiculous, but like a psychological addiction they could not stop the bragging.
As Jung put it,
“The great problems of life — sexuality, of course, among others — are always related to the primordial images of the collective unconscious. These images are really balancing or compensating factors which correspond with the problems life presents in actuality.”
Psychological Types; The Psychology of Individuation (1921)
Ch. 5, p. 271
What they need is their own claim to social benefits for others, not themselves. They will never truly be happy just trying to bolster themselves, as fading away as that really is. Only in giving themselves away will they truly find the contentment within themselves.
“For whoever wants to save their life will lose it,
but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.”
KIP’s — Knows an Important Person
Forget the personal accomplishments, even by bragging like a Narcissist, they take the safer road of “actually” knowing someone important. This person may be in the current zip code, or across the country or even in the distant past. But by golly, they know someone they consider famous.
The attitude poses a danger when they may try to choose someone they perceive with power. Should that person have control fantasies, the seeds of division have already been planted.
How can they be helped to let it go? They are trying to claim value through an outside means, not believing they are important just as they are. Their humanness is what gives them the right to be part of this planet. They are valuable in themselves; no more and certainly no less.
“The essence of being human is that one does not seek perfection.”
— George Orwell
WIP’s — Wanna-be an Important Person
Their displays of knowledge and ability get way over the top in a hurry as they assume to know how to run things better than anyone else. Although they lack the education for it, nor the experience, nor the accreditation … they still know all they need to run this show better than the Pastor or anyone else.
It’s a classic example of the Dunning-Kruger Effect, that people will claim superior ability in spite of their ignorance. It’s all compensation again for a lack of ability which they crave to obtain, but do not have the gumption or determination to take the time and energy to achieve the training. In short, they are not smart enough to realize they are not that smart.
“It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.”
Attributed to Mark Twain
(see Proverbs 17:28)