4th Quartile—Your Christian Ministry in
Your 60s and 70s
By Corey A. Pfaffe, CPA, PhD
Principal of MinistryCPA, a Wisconsin-based CPA firm
Psalm 90.10 – “The days of our years are … if by reason of strength … fourscore years.”
“Retire early” they say. But you say, “I’m not done yet!”
I’m with you on that one and so are a lot of chief executive leaders of Christian ministries (and Christian business owners, as far as that goes). We’ve taken reasonable care of our physical bodies. We’ve been advancing a rewarding cause we feel strongly about. And we want to develop others to continue and multiply what we’ve started—for their own benefit and for the benefit of the constituencies we serve.
A man who knew a lot about advancing a cause and developing another to carrying on a vision that had possessed him for 40 years, wrote: “The days of our years are … if by reason of strength … fourscore years.” That’s right, Moses is the psalmist who recorded these words. Of course, his 120 years were rare even for his time in Bible history.
(Public Domain)But we 60-somethings can learn much by contemplating this truth that we know to be real in the 21st Century. I like to think of these years in your life and ministry as the 4th Quartile—your fourth 20-year adventure.
And not that we must be done at age 80. As a 62-year old business owner, I determined to develop goals for my next 20 years. But then I met a Christian woman in her 90s working the cash register at Walmart. I thought, “maybe I should have set 30-year goals!”
Let me challenge you to start your 4th Quartile contemplation by recalling God’s goodness in your first 60 years.
- Did you have a godly influence in your life as a child? Were you exposed to Bible truth at an early age? Did you conclude your teen years aware of God’s providence over your next important decisions?
- What life lessons did you learn in your 20s and 30s? Did you experience God’s blessing on your family? On your ministry?
- Did your personal ministry capabilities blossom in your 40s and 50s? Did your children establish solid homes? make you a grandparent?
Write these recollections down. Thank God for His goodness. Think about Bible verses and, perhaps, hymns or gospel songs that have become motivations or testimonies that drive you to continue your ministry with excellence. I have. For me, it’s verses such as John 15.7-8 and Proverb 22.3. It’s old-time hymns like Trust and Obey and ‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus.
Now, as you enter your 4th Quartile, you have very important work to do. You must continue to lead. Perhaps you, like me, could consider your leadership roles as a framework for your next steps. As owner of a Certified Public Accounting firm, I’m first a follower of Jesus Christ. Only then do I feel that I’m best prepared to lead and serve my family, my employees, our clients, my fellow church members and my neighbors.
Back to your ministry, your accomplishments and who might be able to build on what you’ve started—what must you do now to make the most of these years? I suppose you have alternatives. You could leave the ministry’s transition/succession plan to others—perhaps in an emergency. Hopefully, the ministry will survive without your participation. Better, I believe, you could help to develop a transition/succession plan.
At a minimum, I believe you must get in place the following pieces—and these pieces will likely be increasingly difficult:
- A contingency plan. What if God takes you Home suddenly or you become incapacitated before you can assist in securing the future of your Christian ministry organization? Your contingency plan must make provision for your family, your co-laborers, and your constituency. Develop an appropriate plan for the ministry to identify another to assume chief executive leadership. Lead your ministry Board to identify a potential boots-on-the-ground individual(s) to execute your plan and to provide competent administration in the interim. Another Christian CPA and I have developed contingency plans to assist each other’s firms in an emergency. Your Christian ministry deserves at least as much care. Make sure that your family and your team and Board members are well aware of these plans.
- The next generation of leaders. It is the youth who must build on the foundation you have laid. The ministry must identify, hire and retain the next generation of leaders. This is a work (and it is work) that must not be delayed. Articulate your organization’s mission and core values—those values that depict your Ideal Team Player.[i] (I don’t know if Lencioni would acknowledge it, but I see significant parallels with the leader God describes in Micah 6.8—and He inspired these principles first.) Hire people who you determine will embrace these values. Develop relationships with sources of quality young people that can lead to these individuals (e.g., Christian universities, local churches, Christian associations, colleagues in your field). Hire before you believe you are ready. If you wait until you and your team are swamped or you’re exhausted with the weight of leadership, it’s too late. Develop a culture that is seen as engaging-where a young ministry associate can see a future. Compensate generously.
- A mentoring mindset. As difficult as it might seem in today’s job market to find your next generation of leaders, purposeful mentoring of these young people requires even greater commitment. As the leader and often most experienced member of your team, you can likely lead the organization and communicate with its constituency with greater effectiveness than your next generation leader(s). In some ways, you must learn what it means to work on your ministry rather than in your ministry. Your young associate will make mistakes you would not make. He or she may not do things exactly as you would have done them. But you must let them learn by doing. Your mentoring requires both programmed and “teachable moment” training. Arrange tightly run, well-prepared team and individual meetings that model leadership and address both immediate needs and long-term plans—both the day-to-day programs of the ministry and the oversight of the organization. If possible, conduct your duties in close physical proximity to your next generation leaders. They will observe your methods and you will observe their development, something much more difficult in work-from-home environments.
Moses gives you and me encouragement that “by reason of strength” we can enjoy a strong 4th Quartile. As you consider the legacy of your ministry, it can also be a season of strength.