Church needs “oldies,” says retirement author

Launching Retirement’s Gift: (left to right) author Dr Bruce Manners, with CEO of Adventist Media, Dr Brad Kemp, and Dr Lyell Heise.

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While Retirement’s Gift offers a wholistic survey of the opportunities and challenges of this stage of life, author Dr Bruce Manners says that the spark for the book was a question that he—as a previously published author on retirement—did not have an answer for. “I was asked: Why are there Adventists who ‘retire’ from church involvement when they retire from work?” he recalls. “There’s anecdotal evidence that this is happening, but nothing solid. In the United States, the past three decades have seen more Baby Boomers—the current retirement generation—leaving churches than any other age group.”

The resulting book was launched on September 28 at the Veterans of the Cross conference for retired pastors and their spouses, hosted at Avondale University. Speaking at the book launch, Dr Lyell Heise reflected on how reading the manuscript of Retirement’s Gift was a “gift” to him as he transitioned into retirement from lecturing at Avondale Seminary. “The book was soothing, reassuring, and challenging all at once,” he said. “I was encouraged to fine tune my ongoing sense of purpose. It will be strong food for [further] thought and reflection.”

Dr Manners explains that the gift of retirement is primarily time. “Retirees get to choose how to use their time,” he says. “Of course, there will be responsibilities they will have or will take on board, but most retirees have much more freedom. As the subtitle of Retirement’s Gift suggests, it’s also time to grow our life and faith.”

Since his own retirement after working for a total of 40 years as a pastor and editor, Dr Manners has continued to research aspects of living well in retirement. His earlier book—Retirement Ready?—focused on planning and preparing for retirement and was written for secular readers. “I have a greater understanding of retirement now,” he says. “I find it difficult to believe that I’ve been retired for almost eight years. The point is that if you aren’t intentional about your retirement, it can simply drift away from you.”

Dr Manners is adamant that older people should not be “retiring” from church—for their own wellbeing and for the good of the church. “I was delighted to find research that my generation can make a huge difference by reaching out to younger people with friendship, or at least recognition,” he explains. “Sometimes we think if we do church ‘right’—whatever that means—it will attract and keep our youth. But the research says it isn’t so much about style or method, it’s more about warmth within the church. We ‘oldies’ can do that. It starts with a smile, a chat, learning names and interests, whatever sends the message that they are seen and recognised as part of the congregation.”

Retirement’s Gift: Time to Grow Your Life and Faith is available from Adventist bookshops in Australia and New Zealand, or online

To join in a conversation with Dr Manners about Retirement’s Gift on Wednesday evening, October 12, register for the ADRA Masterclass.

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