THE OFF RAMP
So, you’ve prayed, you’ve asked the tough questions…and you’ve
decided it’s time to leave. Here’s your strategy for finishing
Talk to your pastor first. That means before you
talk to anyone else involved. Your pastor must be the first to
know, not the last. Too often people lack the courage or strength
of character to do this part right. There’s an old saying that
really is true: “The way you leave one place is the way you’ll
enter the next.” So stay humble, grateful, and kind. When you talk
to your pastor, express appreciation for the time you spent in the
Don’t take it on as your mission to “set them
straight.” No matter the circumstances, realize that
you’re not a spiritual authority in your leaders’ lives. If a
situation does need correction, trust that God ultimately will take
care of it. Keep your thoughts respectfully to yourself. Stay
Follow your pastor’s lead. Let your leader decide
when and how to make the announcement that you’re leaving and abide
by what he or she decides.
Kids LOVE these Sunday School resources!
Go quietly. As you’re making your way out, be
quiet. Answer questions about your departure truthfully but with
discretion. Avoid the temptation to plead your case. It’s not your
place to seek to have your side heard. Remember that for the
church, ministry, and people you’re leaving, it’s more valuable and
important to leave that body intact rather than for you to save
face. Sowing discord, pointing fingers, and laying blame is a sure
way to leave upheaval in your wake.
Reflect. Perhaps this situation was meant to teach
you something. Did you get it? When I’m in difficult situations,
I’m always reminded of the children of Israel wandering in the
desert for 40 years. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from their
experience, it’s that if I don’t pass the test the first time, I
will get to take it again. Assess what you’ve learned,
what you could do better, and what you will (and won’t) take with
you into your next experience in ministry.
As you step into a new position, do so with as much care as you
left your previous position.
Don’t blast your previous pastor. Doing so is a
great way to put your new pastor in a guarded position toward you.
You sow the seeds of distrust and doubt when you speak poorly of
your last leader. After all, if you talk like that about your
previous pastor, what’ll stop you from doing the same to this
pastor? Plus, your new leaders don’t want to hear the blow-by-blow
of what happened; they want to see you in a fresh, clean light
that’s ripe with opportunities and new beginnings. Don’t squander
that golden moment by using trash talk and emotional
Let go. Don’t try to keep in communication with
all the people from your old ministry. Aside from true lifelong
friendships, these lingering ties are almost never positive. These
communications tend to exist for one of two reasons: Either the
person is looking for dirt on the pastor or church, or the person
is still looking to you for leadership. Either is inappropriate.
You’re gone. You’re not the person’s leader any longer. If you find
yourself in this position, redirect the person to the pastor or
person who replaced you. And don’t encourage this type of lingering
by encouraging inappropriate communication.
Act as a cheerleader. This brings me to my final
bit of advice on moving on. It may be difficult and even painful to
imagine someone replacing you. But again, your role in the church
body and position have ceased, and it’s wholly inappropriate to say
negative things or to plant the seeds of unrest when it comes to
the person who’ll step into your old position. A new person in an
existing position already has to battle against being constantly
compared with the predecessor-you. That person doesn’t need you
stirring up more trouble. Make this your desire: to see your
previous ministry move on to bigger and better things, not to fall
apart because you left. Check your heart on this one.
Overall, moving from one ministry position to another is a bit like
navigating a pothole-ridden backcountry road. There are hidden
dangers along the way, but if you guard your heart, assess yourself
objectively, and watch your words, you’ll be headed for bright new
Julie Beader has served in children’s ministry
since the 1980s. She’s the director of Future Harvest (futureharvest.info).