Work provides a large part of our identity. It is often the first thing we ask someone when we meet; “What do you do?” or “Who do you work for?”
But what if your job is a true vocation and calling? When you are never off duty and work at the very heart of your community. When your professional identity is core to your values and beliefs. How would you feel about changing or retiring from such a role and what would you do next? This is the difficult dilemma facing ordained Ministers that led me to develop a pilot programme for mid and later life planning for the Methodist Church.
The work-life options for Ministers are complex; there are the typical considerations of how to manage money and pensions, how to manage change and how to spend your time. However, the issue is more holistic. There are dilemmas about where and how to live as many Ministers have had very transient careers, moving every few years and in provided accommodation. There are also very deep questions about role identity and how best to continue to worship and share faith in different ways.
Like many other employees, today’s generation of Ministers can look forward to a longer and healthier life and a new phase of later life. Time when individuals may want to reassess their working lives, retrain or take on new challenges or leave their current role and contribute in different ways. The notion of cliff edge retirement is fast disappearing as the Baby Boomer generation approach ageing with more diverse lifestyles and aspirations.
The workshop needed to be different to traditional pre-retirement training. My challenge was to explore and celebrate individual difference rather than give out generic advice or words of wisdom.
Paul Wood, Co-ordinator, Ministry Development for The Methodist Church in Britain.
Our retirement course wasn’t really working for everyone and feedback showed we need to do something more forward thinking. Kingswood Consulting listened to our needs and worked hard to shape a tailor made later life programme for people retiring from the active ministry."
The result was a life planning programme that allows participants to work through the issues for themselves and develop tools and techniques that they could use time and again to review and plan work life options.
Key to the success was helping individuals gain a real understanding of their skills, strengths and motivations. Increased self-awareness would enable them to assess different options for the future against their own needs.
I was delighted to use the unionlearn Value My Skills cards to help unlock the Ministers understanding of their own skills and potential. Like many other jobs and professions there are many commonly held stereotypes of the sort of person that makes a good Minister. In reality there are some core skills but as many different ways of performing the role as there are personalities. Each Minister has their own unique strengths. There are parts of the job they excel at and others that they find less comfortable and maybe do less well. Some are particularly good at preaching and working with groups; some at listening and counselling on a one to one basis. Parts of the role require administrative and business skills; some of the role is about managing people and the Value My Skills cards offered the Ministers something tangible to help them identify their skills.
Individuals used the cards to identify what they saw as their key strengths; things they were very competent at and also the skills they would like to develop. Participants then worked in pairs to coach and challenge the lists they had developed. As a facilitator it was exciting to see the conversations develop. After spending only a short time together it is often very easy for others to notice our skills and strengths that we take for granted or are too shy to promote.
“The skills cards helped to affirm the value of self and my skills”
“I have a sense of the gifts I take with me and the opportunities of our time”
“This was a good chance to rediscover who one is …”
The Methodist Ministers were an atypical client group to work with but the outcomes prove the value of mid-life and later life career reviews in any occupational setting.