In my last post, I gave you the first four principles I followed that helped me leave my last church in a healthy way. I was able to quit my job and keep my friends because I had a trusted coach, I got out in front of the transition with my trusted boss, I was honest about my goals, and I sought harmony.
Let’s dive into the last four.
Help with the job transition.
It’s tempting to say “this isn’t my problem,” especially if you have been asked to resign or quit over things that are still sore, but it looks petty on your part if you don’t. See it as an opportunity to invest in the new guy and resist the urge to “prepare him for what he’s getting into.” He’ll find out on his own.
I love pouring into the guy who replaced me. His wife and her parents were both already volunteers for me. He is young and full of fire and I love watching him grow. Don’t tear down what you’ve worked hard to build over sour grapes. Feed the new farmer.
I also was the one who made the announcement to my students and helped make it to my church. I wanted to be there. I’ve seen guys opt out of any part of the announcement and honestly, it only caused problems. It made it seem like we weren’t telling them something when our elders say “it’s a good thing and we’re in agreement about it” and then you won’t talk to them about it and assure them that this is indeed the case. It’s kind of a petty move, but I know it probably comes from a justifiable hurt. Maturity and professionalism will help you rise above that.
Replace yourself in key positions before you go.
A true testimony to a person’s leadership is what happens when they are not there. Take every opportunity to ensure that when you leave, the ministry keeps running like you were the least important part of it. That’s good leadership. It also helps your boss and the people you were leading feel less of the sting of change that comes no matter what.
Make a clean break.
Even if you are going to stay at the church as a member like I did, take a few weeks away. Don’t connect, don’t call, just go away. Sure there will be special occasions for helping out, but the group now needs to fly on its own. Let the new person have the reigns fully without your interference.
Visit other churches and refresh yourself. You’ll be glad you did. When or if you come back to the church, you’ll be able to find your new role more easily. If you’re headed to a new church, make sure that no one follows you. That’s not because you’re awesome, that’s because you built a ministry on your own personality rather than on the person of Christ. That’s not awesome.
Stay positive about the church long after you’ve gone.
If you’re going to keep going to your small group after you’ve left the church, I advise you to get very good at keeping your opinions to yourself. It would be easy to sic the people on the elder board by citing its inability to do its job (which by the way, is an incredibly arrogant thing to say), but don’t do it.
If it means holding your tongue and refusing to defend your position to instead defend the leadership, then defend the leadership. Why? Because they are going to be there when you’re gone and will have to lead these people. Don’t make it harder on them than it already is. If they are bad elders, they’ll make it hard enough on their own.
Breaking up is hard to do, but there is a way to do it and still be friends. I think working really hard towards this goal of harmony and peace pleases God and demonstrates to the outside world what grace and truth walking hand in hand really looks like.
I’d love to hear some of your Cinderella stories and/or horror stories of how you’ve left a ministry position. Don’t be shy, we can all learn from each other!