Minnsesota Church Empowers Seniors for Purposeful Retirement

Ministry aims to reach adults in the early stages of retirement to help them discover their strengths and build community.

When Chap Milis retired in January 2014, he knew his life and social circles would be changing. As an attorney, Milis had committed much of his time to his workplace and now needed to adjust to a new lifestyle.

“Once you’re out of the workforce, you can lose your social network,” Milis says.

Wanting to stay active in a community, Milis quickly became involved with the Purposeful Retirement ministry at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church in Apple Valley, Minnesota, where average attendance is 1,650.

The ministry—started by Care Pastor Duane Paetznick, along with Kristi Kuhnau, a member of the human resources leadership team—aims to reach adults in the early stages of retirement to help them discover their God-given strengths and build community.

“If you’re not using your skills and your abilities, are you fulfilling your purpose?” asks Kuhnau. “Are you doing what you’re meant to be doing?”

Now in its second year, Purposeful Retirement is extremely successful, with anywhere from 35 to 95 people attending meetings and events.

Early on, Chap Milis joined the steering committee to help plan the ministry’s direction. After holding focus groups to gauge retirees’ wants and needs, the ministry now consists of four main components: monthly events with general topics of interest, pre-retiree seminars, affinity groups and flexible volunteering opportunities.

Monthly events have included topics such as Passion and Happiness, Relationships in Retirement, and End of Life Issues. Affinity groups are peer-led by people within the ministry, meeting for diverse interests such as walking, biking, gardening and even learning Spanish.

For Milis, the most important aspect of the ministry has been the opportunity to form new relationships within the church.

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“There are so many talented people in our congregation that I probably wouldn’t have recognized or gotten to know otherwise,” Milis says.

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