By the time I turned 45, I felt like I was driving with cruise-control. My marriage was stable, my church appreciated my leadership as associate pastor. I wasn’t exactly asleep at the wheel, but I was coasting, two fingers on the wheel.
Instead of taking risks, I’d begun to settle for getting the job done, relying on my skills and experience. I’d been avoiding conflict and initiatives that might have challenged my sense of competence and escaping into overeating and watching hockey.
But I began to realize, there has to be more to life than this.
I signed up for coaching with L2L and discovered I wasn’t alone: many pastors reach a leadership plateau. My coach led me through a process called APEX, which showed me that God had wired me for spiritual adventure.
I discovered that I had the gift of evangelism. With new clarity on God’s purposes for my life, I passed some of my “safe” administrative responsibilities to volunteers in the church, to free myself up for relationships. I started doing my sermon prep at the Korean café on my street, where I’m getting to know the owners. I asked my wife how I can serve her better; it wasn’t easy to hear how I’ve been distant. I’m tuning in through prayer to places Jesus is working and making the most of opportunities.
Now life feels like driving with Jesus through the mountains, and I’m curious what’s around the next curve.
I was both exhilarated and scared: the pastoral job offer was what I had been hoping for, but I worried that I wasn’t ready. Like me, the church had a passion to serve the homeless. What if I wasn’t up to the challenge?
I reached out to an L2L coach for help with my decision. I told her I felt like a track runner in the starting blocks, waiting for the starter’s gun to go off, afraid of getting the timing wrong. I had Bible college training and volunteer experience at my church’s soup kitchen. So why was I afraid?
My coach walked me through personal ReFocusing. I realized God would be there, even if I failed. As I prayed with my coach, God replaced my fear with excitement for how this job opportunity fit with my passions.
My coach asked questions that challenged me to find and surrender the hurts from my previous church leadership experience that had built up layers around my heart. I gained hope and courage to move forward.
My initial picture changed: I wasn’t in the starting blocks. I was in a race that started when I accepted Jesus 10 years earlier in Sunday school. And with my coach for support and accountability, I had the assurance that I wasn’t running alone.
I hated the word retirement. As I neared my 65th birthday, I felt days and months whipping by me – I was hanging on for dear life like when my brother and I would race soap box cars down the hill. But I dreaded the thought of stopping. Was there really life after work?
I requested a coach through L2L to guide me through the transition. We worked through a discovery process called Resonance to help me “finish well.”
At first, I didn’t like the sound of that; it reminded me of a terminal disease. But I began to see retirement was a page turn, not a book burning.
My coach and I reviewed the key turning points of my life: a mission trip where I discovered my gift for hospitality, the employer that encouraged me to start my own business, my marriage to my best friend, the day my oldest son died in a car crash, the family friend who led me back to church.
I began to see that true influence isn’t restricted to a formal role or position; it’s about character and relationship.
I started investing in and cheering on younger leaders at my church. Instead of white-knuckling for the finish line, I’m letting go and enjoying the ride, knowing that God is in control.
—Due to the confidential nature of the coaching relationship, these stories are composites of participants’ experiences.
See also “How to ask better questions to gain clarity”