7 Suggestions for 50+ Year-Old Leaders to Find a Second Wind

Here’s a reality I came to a year of so ago. We have placed so much energy investing in the next generation of leaders that we’ve left a ton of leaders my age wondering how to remain relevant and useful. 

Several experiences led to this discovery. Here’s one example. 

Personal.

I am 56 years old and hope to work at least another 15 years. And I said “at least”. If I’m going strong I hope to go even longer. 

A chance encounter.

I was at a conference representing Leadership Network. We were doing good stuff working with the next generation of leaders. We had just announced a new initiative with a super-sharp millennial group. I believed in it and was excited about it.

After a session, I was stopped by a pastor about my age. He posed a serious question. He commented on the new millennial group and then asked, “What about me? I’m 55. Who’s going to help me figure out the next phase of my life? I’m not ready to talk about transition. Do I need to get some skinny jeans or what?” 

Wow! His question stung a little. He was only semi-joking.

It stung in two ways. First, because we are the same age. Second, he was right. Most of our energy as an organization – and really Kingdom-wide – was/is on the next generation of leaders. Again, I believe in it, but many pastors and leaders our age and older still have an incredible amount to offer. 

We could expect them to be mentors now – simply give back – and while they certainly should all of us need people pouring into us – at every age. (And, likewise, we all need to be pouring into others.)

So, I told him to get some skinny jeans. Just kidding. Please don’t.

But that conversation started a new ministry in my mind. I began calling it “Second Wind Ministry“. I actually own a domain by that name.

I’ve helped lots of churches find their “second wind” through church revitalization. Could I actually help some leaders do the same? 

Here’s the deal. Many people my age – and older – aren’t looking at transition yet. They aren’t thinking succession yet. We probably should be, but we are thinking more about how to finish strong.  

Like my pastor friend, I want to ramp up not slow down.

I was sharing these thoughts with a 70 year-old man in ministry and he said, “Heck, I’m 70 and I think I feel I’m just getting started.” That’s who I want to be in 14 more years. 

I’m still getting started with this second wind ministry idea, but let me share some initial thoughts. 

Here are 7 suggestions for finding your second wind: 

Admit the need.

You’re not as “relevant” as you used to be. That’s okay. In actuality, you’re likely relevant in some ways you can’t even imagine. You have things to offer the world you didn’t have 20 years ago. Don’t be afraid to admit what you don’t know.

Know who you are.

Don’t try to be anyone other than you. This is a season where you have tested a few things. You’ve had failure and success. What were you good at doing? Where did you stink? Hone your best skills. You were uniquely designed for a definite purpose. You’ve likely taught that principle to others. Discover and live it for yourself.

Keep learning new things.

Always be teachable and always be learning. Even more than ever before, if you’re not reinventing yourself every few years you’re behind. Commit to learn something new. 

Personally, I hope to be a life-long learner. I have two masters degrees and am hoping to finally finish my doctoral dissertation in the next year. Then I want to learn to speak another language. Stretch your mind. 

Become a people-builder.

You have something to give back. Invest what you’ve learned in others. Celebrate other people’s success. The fact is the more you share what you know with others the more valuable you become to all of us. It truly is your “best life”. 

Plan your legacy.

How will you be remembered? More importantly, how do you want to remembered? How close are those answers to each other? If they’re not close enough what changes do you need to make now to bring them closer?

My father made some mistakes in life. He spent the last couple of years of his life intentionally trying to make right all his close relationships. That tremendously improved his legacy in my mind. 

Take some new risks.

I said earlier we all need mentors. One of mine is 82 years old. He is still going strong. When he was 80 he was talking about a new business he wanted to start. He’s still “working on it” today. He sat with me recently and asked what we could do radically different to impact the Kingdom. That’s who I want to be when I grow up someday. 

Leave when it’s time.

This is the hardest one to write, but sometimes we stay too long. I can’t tell you how many stories I know of pastors and leaders who think they should have left a few years earlier. 

By the way, that doesn’t mean they should do nothing. It could mean they do something their whole life has prepared them to do. They couldn’t have done it without the years of experience – success and failures – that have shaped them into who they are today. 

Second wind ministry.

I know there’s a need. If my coaching/consulting can help you think through finding your second wind – at your church or personally – please let me know. 

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Ron Edmondson

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Join the discussion 9 Comments

  • […] 7 Suggestions For 50+ Year-Old Leaders To Find A Second Wind by Ron Edmondson […]

  • Martin Maluleke says:

    Hi, Ron I’m grateful for your leadership mentoring posts, I’m an ordained minister in Methodist church in Botswana, but a South African citizen, I’m ministering in Northern Botswana in the Delta, we attract a lot of tourists pre Covid 19 wildlife be pray things will return to normality in few years,

    I’m passionate in church planting ministry because this area is undeveloped on ministry, I’m 50 year old, been in the ministry for the pass 25 years, just to appreciate you and your contribution in building me and my ministry, blessings to you and your family

  • Marvin Smalley says:

    These are discussions I need to engage in now. I’m 53. I’m embarrassed to say I still youth pastor at the same church of maybe 15 total members now. Senior pastor is seventy but is faithful. But I do have two other jobs. I feel so done. But I don’t know how to quit or where to go next. I do need a second wind. Everything is on the table.

  • Mark says:

    Start a ministry to Gen X, who are now in their 40s. They were outcasts in churches to the point that most of them are now missing. They were not wanted by anyone in the church. Back in the 1990s and 2000s, the leaders would not stand up to the older pople when Gen X was being run off. Their parents sided with the older people against them. The clergy weren’t given the time to teach them the faith because the older people wanted the pastor/preacher teaching their Sunday school class. They have difficult questions and will not take pat or simple answers as that was what they were given the first time. Many still know they are not wanted in churches.

  • Hi Ron! I’m 67 and still feel like I have much to give. In fact, I feel better about ministry now than I did was I was younger. There is a youth pastor at the church who wants me to continue mentoring him. I feel that is an honor. He is in his mid 30s and just started in full-time ministry about 6 years ago. I’m not ready to hang up my spurs at this point. I still feel I have much to offer and the church here is wanting an older man to help guide the younger ones. I want to know when my time is up so I can pass it off to Ryan (f he wants it). He already knows that is my plan. I’m excited about the future and can’t wait to see what God may have planned. I’m just praying for good health and wisdom.

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