By Frank Crumpler
Every minister knows, we assume, that he will someday retire. Yet, when that time actually arrives the reality may be disconcerting. Even with preparation and planning, many questions remain. What will I discover in this new phase of life? What, if any, opportunities will open? Will any areas of ministry present themselves?
It is possible, with some forethought and preparation, to make the retirement years a most fulfilling and fruitful experience. Talk to anyone who has been retired for a few years, and they will tell you there are not enough hours in a day to do all they need to or want to do. Some will say they are as busy in retirement as they were in full-time ministry.
Each minister has different skills, interests, and gifts. Finding a way to express these strengths and interests will vary with each individual. However, I would like to share some of my post-retirement experiences that have helped me to grow, serve, discover, and recover.
Initially, I found that reflecting on my past 62 years of ministry led me to feel that I should make a record of all I could remember about my early years, my youth, and certainly my experiences as a pastor in six states as well as 15 years spent in denominational service. As memories flooded my mind, I felt compelled to write about them.
This included not only times of great satisfaction and thankfulness, but also the dark days of dealing with mental, physical, and emotional stress. This was, of course, a “valley” experience that was, as you might guess, a time of putting into practice the repentance and contrition which I have preached since my call to the ministry when I was 14. Many ministers have gone through similar seasons of deep distress.
It is essential that a minister, especially a pastor, find a way to keep his mental and emotional health in check. He must find some type of activity that provides relief from anxiety and stress. In the process, we learn the true meaning of restoration and renewal.
In this time of reflection, I learned something else. I discovered that writing the story of my life was great therapy, and it gave me a chance to recover some positive memories along with healing and reaffirmation.
Your story is unique and important, not only to you, but to all those who know you and love you. Writing your own biography will give your heart and mind a challenge.
There is a nerve that runs from the brain, through the heart, to the tip of the writer’s pen. Your story should be told for the glory of God. Tell the whole story – the highs and the lows. You will be amazed at how many details will come to mind. Writing your life story will be good therapy for you and a treasure to your family and friends. For many generations, your descendants will be able to read all about your life written in your own words.
Over the years, I have developed a love for poetry and found it to be a way to express many of my personal impressions. Of course, I had to brush up on what I already knew. Great help came from a book by Edward Hirsh, How to Read a Poem. I eventually wrote over 200 poem and prose pieces. Both of my books, my biography, and my book of poems were self-published. I shared copies with family and friends.
Another writing project of mine was the many funeral messages and experiences I had with people who were going through bereavement. In grief counseling and in conducting funerals, I had enough material to use in writing a book, All About Grief, which was published. It is available on Amazon. It is a joy to think that someone might find help in a time of sorrow from reading something I have written.
All along the journey I have given most of my time and energy to preaching and teaching God’s Word. Opportunities for preaching, interims, teaching, funerals, and weddings open often. These help me to continue to pursue the calling as a pastor/preacher as God has called me to do. It is with great gratitude that at the age of 82 I am still able to say, “Here I am, Lord, send me.”
Frank Crumpler is a Georgia Baptist, religious leader, pastor, denominational servant, and author.