We’ve all heard stories of people who have not “left well.” Transitions are a normal part of life, and chances are that the ministry you are serving in now won’t be the ministry that you are in for the rest of your life. Even if you’re at the same church, there will likely be another position that you move into along the way.
The way that you leave in these times of transition will be the filter by which your entire ministry will be viewed. Knowing this, it’s unfortunate that so many leave poorly. I’ve been involved in just about every side of this issue. I’ve been the one leaving poorly and I’ve left really well. I’ve also had employees land on both sides of this issue. Here are some things that I’ve learned through those circumstances that will hopefully help you to “leave well” the next time you transition.
- Remember that it’s not about you, even when people are celebrating your ministry and telling you how much you meant to them.
- Don’t overplay your excitement for your new position or your sadness for leaving where you are.
- Honor your pastor more than you ever have before as you leave.
- Take time away from the crowds with people who you have been especially close to.
- Make a clean break. Don’t throw away the relationships you’ve built, but remember that the people you’ve left will need to move on, and so do you.
- Avoid speaking negatively. People will dig for information even if everything is healthy. Shut it down immediately.
- If you can’t “leave well” because of situations outside of your control, it’s always better to keep your mouth shut instead of adding to the verbal assault. This is easy to say and harder to do. Just know, there isn’t anything you’re going to accomplish by fighting back.
- Develop other leaders around you that will be there when you leave. Until this point I’ve mentioned things that can be done in the moment of transition. That’s not the case with this one. As you lead in your current ministry think about your last day there. Will you be handing off a healthy ministry to the next leader? Or, is the ministry built so much upon you and your gifts that it struggles after you are gone?
- Reflect on what God has done and spend time in worshipful prayer.
Too often we don’t think about transition until we are in the middle of it. Healthy transitions are an investment you begin to make with your first moments on the job. Jay Strack has often said “Begin with the end in mind” and I believe that’s an appropriate way to view your current ministry position. When (if) you leave you want the ministry to thrive after your departure. Or should I say you “should” want it to thrive. Don’t be the student pastor who only wants the ministry to be awesome while you’re there. That kind of mindset is bad leadership fueled by pride. Instead, take the time to develop people and systems that will create a healthy environment for any leader who may one day step into your position.
This post was written by Ben Trueblood, Director of LifeWay Student Ministry