Alright, so you know that the Lord is calling you to leave the current Church that you’re serving at. You’ve done the hard work of praying and wrestling through this transition with God, you’ve asked the right questions, you’ve allowed the right people to speak into your life, and the decision to leave has been made. What next? How do you leave well? What does leaving well even mean? How you choose to leave a church, or for that matter any place of employment, will reveal much about the kind of person you are. And if they’re watching, this moment tells the next organization you’re moving into a lot about what kind of person they’re getting. What you do next matters. So as you get ready to make this move here are a few ideas that should help the transition go a bit smoother.
1. Tell the Right People First
If your Lead Pastor or whomever you directly report to doesn’t already know, let them know first. They deserve that respect. Then think concentric circles of influence. Such as the Staff team you serve on, key lay leadership (elders or deacons), key volunteers, and then the church body as a whole. Depending on the structure of the church these groups may fall in a different order. Ultimately however, the more public the role and influence of the person leaving, the more public the announcement should be. Keep in the forefront of your mind that effective communication has a lot to do with saying the right thing, to the right person, at the right time, in the right way. This bit of wisdom will help you more than you know in this process.
2. Nail down a process
Discuss and agree (even if it takes some skillful negotiation) on the time table of your departure and the communication process with the church body with your supervisor. I would even recommend agreeing to this in writing so it takes any unnecessary potential confusion out of the equation. This should include your last day in the office, last paycheck, last date of insurance coverage, any final assignments that will be completed, etc. Keep in mind that the place you’re going to is always going to want you to come sooner than you can in order to leave your current place well and the place you’re leaving is always going to want you to stay longer than you should. A good rule of thumb is, don’t stay more than a month after the public announcement is made. Things have a tendency to get a bit funky on many different fronts if you stay much longer than that.
3. People will always go fishing
People are always up for a good conspiracy theory. They will always hunt you down and ask what the “real story is” behind your departure. If the Lord is truly leading you somewhere else, the answer is easy. If not…well that’s another story now isn’t it? Remember, your experience with the church was your experience not theirs, so don’t ruin theirs with yours…make sense?
4. Set the place you’re leaving up for success
This can mean everything from setting the ministry up organizationally for the transition period and helping put interim leadership in place to in some cases even helping with the search for your replacement. One thing to be sure to do is build a work load transition plan. Clearly communicate what projects are in process that you’re working on. I would recommend identifying it in three categories: immediate, 6 months, and 1 year. Then state what action needs to be taken on each item and who you would recommend handing the project off to. This plan can be incredibly helpful to the ministry you’re leaving behind. Also take the time to clearly identify what your job actually is with your supervisor, believe it or not often times they may not even know what you really do on a day to day basis.
This may seem like a bit of a no brainer, but unfortunately I think it needs to be said. After you leave, you are no longer on Staff at your last church. You can pray for, encourage, speak well of, and at all times support the new leadership of the place you’ve left but never, never, never interfere.
So have you ever done this well or on the other hand made a mistake you hope you never repeat? What do you think it means to leave well? Leave a comment below.
Posted in Leadership, Staffing