….will you still need me, will you still feed me…
when I’m 64?
The song reverberates in my head. “When I’m 64”, was written by Paul McCartney, recorded by the Beatles, and released in 1967 on their album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Some speculate that McCartney was inspired by his father’s 64th birthday in 1966, the year recording began. After all, none of the Beatles could have imagined themselves at 64 years of age. That was the age of one’s parents or maybe grandparents! Come to think of it, in 1967 I could not have foreseen reaching that milestone. But here I am — 64 years of age and about to hit the big 65 in January.
During the Beatles era, we were part of the emerging Baby Boom generation. And as poetic and melodic the number “64” is for the song, it is the 65th year marker that looms large before me. How did so many entities know that I was approaching this age? I’ve heard from every Medicare Advantage Plan out there, the Social Security Administration and my denominational pension plan.
I don’t intend to “retire” in the traditional sense of the word. Yet during this 65th year of life, I increasingly ask myself, “Is this what I want to be doing the rest of my life?”
I served as the executive pastor in a large church in the greater Seattle area for the past decade. Earlier in my ministry I envisioned myself in such a role, so was pleased when our new senior pastor invited me to be a part of his executive leadership team and help facilitate a smooth transition. I found the position to be stretching and fulfilling, drawing on all my strengths and gifts of administration. I loved serving with a gifted senior pastor, a great team of twenty-four pastors and directors, and a robust support team totaling over 50 employees. I managed a $4.5 million budget. I enjoyed working with a deep bench of skilled personnel in finance, facilities, I.T., communications, and media.
In 2013, the church graciously gave me a sabbatical leave. My wife and I traveled to Europe and visited ten countries in six weeks. I planned to do a lot of reading, but somewhere along the way my iPad froze and I could not access my electronic library. Providentially, the one book I read on the airplane would become the catalyst for re-evaluating my future direction. One Big Thing, by Phil Cooke, prompted me to begin to ask the question,
What is my “One Big Thing?”
What do I want to do in the next stage of my life?
Additionally, as a part of my sabbatical reflection, I went through the SIMA MAP process MAP stands for “Motivated Abilities Pattern,” and identifies, through writing about signature events, what motivates one in life. As I reviewed my life and wrote about what I had done, I recounted such achievements as:
- Learning ventriloquism and performing throughout my high school and college years.
- Running for, and being elected as, Student Body President of my high school
- Serving as a senior pastor in two churches
- Administering a Doctor of Ministry satellite program
- Co-creating an instructional social simulation game SUPERCHURCH.
- Incorporating ChurchHealth as founder and president
Writing about these events and how I felt about them identified qualities and motivations in my life such as:
- Bring the concept to life
- Go from idea to realization
- Make an impact
- Subvert the prevailing paradigm
I realized from the consultant’s report and feedback that I had a motivated pattern to be key, to be unique, to lead. At the same time, it was becoming increasingly evident that my role in managing the operations of a mega-church was sapping my energy more than giving me life.
More and more, Leona and I were finding opportunities to develop and present our Re-Ignite initiative under our non-profit umbrella, ChurchHealth, which we founded twenty years earlier in 1995. We were seeing lives transformed as individuals discovered their unique wiring and calling.
As we continued to lead Re-Ignite Retreats, and asked people to review their lives and envision their future, I realized I was out of sync wit my own values. During one of our seminars, as I instructed people to identify their core values and what they needed to do to align their lives with their values, I wrote that I would have to:
- Quit my job
- Sell my house
- Focus my energy and my calling under ChurchHealth and our Re-Ignite ministry.
As I continued to reflect on what I wanted my “One Big Thing” to be, as well as what motivated me, it became apparent that I needed to make a change.
That set in motion a six-month process of sorting, purging and downsizing—first, our house and then my office. Over the summer I threw myself into the task. I purchased a scanner and declared war on paper that occupied way too much of my life. I cleaned out the shed and then the garage. We listed our home for sale on August 19th and it sold 3 days later. That accelerated the process. We would soon be homeless! We used our garage as a staging area. We secured a storage unit (for the first time in our lives) and transitional housing in a lovely three-bedroom basement apartment on Martha Lake in Lynnwood, Washington. The owners offered it to us for a modest rent as they prepared to leave for the winter to Redding, California to be near their grandchildren. It was the perfect solution to our needs. They even offered us a venue for hosting meetings on the main level while they were away.
I announced my plans for a transition to my senior pastor upon his return from vacation in late August. I began the process of sorting through files and books from 40 years of ministry. I reduced notebooks, manuals, and even some of my books, to digital format using my new scanner. In the end I was only able to reduce my inventory of 30 boxes of books to 20, and the rest went into storage. But I had made great strides in my war against paper. My motto became, “if it doesn’t scan, it’s in the can.”
During the third week of November, the staff gave me a farewell luncheon. On November 23rd the church said goodbye to Leona and me in all three morning services, and honored my ten years of ministry and service…and then we were gone.
We drove south the next morning, heading for Arizona for rest and ministry. The next Sunday I preached on “Living on Purpose” at a church in Sun City West. And the following weekend we facilitated a Re-Ignite Retreat there with a room full of Boomers!
Now as I sit in my mom’s condo in Surprise, Arizona, just five miles from the church we came here to serve, I find myself at the beginning of a new stage of my life. In a few days we’ll return to Washington to work full-time in our ministry with ChurchHealth and Re-Ignite. In less than a month I will turn 65 and enroll in Medicare.
I enter this next stage of my life with focus, determination, calling, and excitement. I’m ready to pour energy into my “one big thing” – to encourage my generation to live with purpose and passion. I’m enlisting ministry partners for the movement, scheduling more retreats, developing new skills, and cultivating new relationships.
I defy anyone to use the “R” word for this stage of my life, unless it stands for Re-Ignite!
I’m Richard Bergstrom, and this is my Re-Ignite story.
written December, 2014 by Richard Bergstrom, D.Min.
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