December 20, 2022 • Third Third Journal
The De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life course is now three months old. During its short life, several churches have hosted the course and dozens of people have used it as individual learners. We’re beginning to get feedback from folks about how the course is making a difference in their lives.
For example, a couple of weeks ago I heard from a pastor who whose church had offered the video-based course to their people. He said the response of people was strongly positive. He sent along the comments he received on the end-of-course evaluation form. In response to a question about what was most relevant in the course, people said:
“That God has a plan for me in this stage of life. I’m not just old but have many gifts that I can contribute to in this part of my life.”
“In fact, everything was a promise to me that God cares and has plans for me that I wasn’t even aware of.”
“For me . . . to be focused on being a more alert and an active person for God – daily looking for opportunities to serve others including family members.”
I’m struck by the fact that two of these people mentioned God’s plans for their third third lives, something they had not previously considered. Indeed, there is much in Scripture that affirms God’s purposes for our lives, not just when we are younger, but throughout our lives.
The church’s feedback form also asked folks if there were likely to recommend the course to others and, if so, why. Here are a couple of responses:
“Yes, I would recommend this course. It gave me good information and validated what I was already discovering on my own.”
“It is the most rewarding class you can take. One of the reasons it is so rewarding is because it causes you to look at your life in a more positive way and gives you purpose for your life.”
As you can imagine, I find those comments quite invigorating. I want to be clear, though, that the course “gives you purpose for your life” because it faithfully communicates the biblical truth that God has a purpose for all things, including each one of us.
As the one who created the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third course, I continue to be excited about its content. I learned so much through the research I did for this course – from Scripture and from hundreds of academic studies – and am glad to share what I have learned with others. But it isn’t just the content that gets me revved up. It’s what happens when people engage with the content in a way that is truly transformational. The ultimate purpose of this course isn’t to help you to understand that third third flourishing is possible. Rather, the main purpose is to help you actually flourish as you live each day. I get really excited when, for example, someone realizes in a new way that God has plans for her and her future. I am delighted to hear that someone has begun volunteering at a local elementary school or regularly meeting with a friend who recently lost his wife. Flourishing in the Third Third of Life isn’t only about personal well-being. It’s about living fully and fruitfully as we make a purposeful difference in the world. I get pretty excited when I hear that this is happening.
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.