youth worker, youth ministry, leave

Guest Post: How Do You Leave a Ministry?

By Doug Franklin January 13, 2012

Nick Farr, who describes himself as an ‘everything pastor’ (you know, the guys who do a little of everything) wrote a fantastic post a couple of months ago about how to leave a ministry, and how to do it well. You can check out his blog at http://www.everythingpastor.com/. I am reposting this blog with his permission.

How Do You Leave a Ministry?

How do you leave something that you love? That’s the question I’ve been asking myself for the past couple of weeks. On October 4th, I put in my 60 day notice at my church. I’ve been here four years and have loved every step of the way. We had always assumed that we would be at Greenwood forever, but about six months ago, God became to change our hearts and as a result we feel he’s re-ignited our passions for missions and church planting. We were always planning to church plant, we just thought that we be overseas and not in America. It’s been such a growing process for our family. Now that our decision is public, we have to deal with everything that comes from resigning from a ministry. Here are some things that I’m working through. The list isn’t perfect (or complete), but it gives you a chance to see my heart and maybe be encouraged.

1. Think about who you need to tell first

When you decide to leave a church, you need to be intentional about who you tell first. The last thing that you want happening is for the news to get out and be uncontrolled. For us, I told my team first. They have poured themselves out for the sake of the cross and I wanted them to hear the news from me. Laura and I even met with our Senior class (we’ve known them for 4 years) and told them in our living room. Lots of tears were shed that day! I encourage you to think through how you want to let people know and when. When I turned in my official letter of resignation, I specifically asked, that they allow me to tell students, parents, and my leaders. The church was very gracious and that allowed me to do a lot of telling before we officially announced in during Sunday services.

2. Expect to be a lame duck

One of the hardest things that I’ve had to deal with is the feeling that I’m a lame duck. Don’t get me wrong, I totally expected this to happen (and it should have), but it still takes you by surprise. One minute you are leading a team and have influence to shape stuff. That hasn’t gone away for me, but it has changed significantly. Use your time to give positive input. Let others around you rise up and become the new leaders. Use your influence to prepare them for greatness through Christ.

3. Let go

I turned in a 60 day notice. I think you should too. It gives everyone time to adjust and allows the shock of you leaving to wear off a bit. If you choose to give a long notice (like I have), then expect that once you become “lame duck” (I don’t mean that in a bad way), that you’ll see yourself becoming defensive of changes being made to the programs you’ve led. We need to realize that the ministry will change. Things will not go to pot. Christ is sufficient for all. The Holy Spirit wants to see success. I constantly find myself saying, “Be ok with things if they don’t do it your way. Your way isn’t necessarily the only way.” You should probably start telling yourself that too.

4. Tell those you care about how you feel

It goes without saying that you will have developed some strong relationships with people in your church. Sure, every church has people you’d rather not see or talk to, but I bet you’ve got some close friendships. Be sure to tell everyone you can what you’ve appreciated about them. Being thankful for how God has blessed you  is a disciple. Even if you’re leaving from a bad situation, God’s blessing wasn’t void. He always blesses (regardless of how some people may treat you).

5. Leave the bridges intact

Resist the temptation to use your new status “leaving” in a bad way. I had one well meaning lady (which I love) tell me that I should let people know what things need to change around my church now that I’m leaving. I chose not to do that. Sure, I have TONS of opinions, but it is not my place. I do not want to knick, hurt, or destroy any bridges here at Greenwood. I want to do everything possible to live at peace with everyone (See Romans 12:18). My opinions might be good opinions, but that doesn’t mean I should share them with everyone. Don’t volunteer your thoughts unless asked.

6. Prepare the way for the next guy/girl

Do everything you can to leave well and prepare for the next person coming into the ministry. God will give them a heart for the same people that you have loved. God will use them to shepherd the same situations you’ve been involved in. If we do not prepare for a solid transition, we could be adding fire to transition stress. I’ve went out of my way to tell people that life will go on without me. I’ve told students that the next guy (I have no idea who he is) will be awesome and they’ll love him. I’m mentioned that God is preparing a special person to love them and he’ll do a great job. Be that type of a leader. It’s not all about me (or you) leaving. Think with the end in mind for that ministry. Do no harm.

What are things that I’ve missed or that you’re learning?

About the Author

Doug Franklin

Doug Franklin is the president of LeaderTreks, an innovative leadership development organization focusing on students and youth workers. Doug and his wife, Angie, live in West Chicago, Illinois. They don’t have any kids, but they have 2 dogs that think they are children. Diesel and Penelope are Weimaraners  who never leave their side. Doug grew up in…  Read More