The Right Way to Leave Your Church
There is a right way for you to do it. There are also several wrong ways to go about it.
Few people address this topic publically. Yet, we need to apply some wisdom to this necessary occurrence.
Pastor, you don’t want to handle this wrong. It doesn’t matter whether you are a paid or a volunteer staff member; leaving wrongly will jeopardize your future opportunities.
There is a right way and a wrong way to leave the pastorate (tweet this). Too often I learn of tendered resignations that are not grace-filled departures.
If you give me the opportunity to help before the resignation, you’ll think I’m trying to talk you out of it. Why? Because you might be trying to leave without going through the painful conversations that lead to a right decision.
What is the wrong way to leave your pastorate?
- If you think it doesn’t matter how you leave your pastorate, perhaps you lacked the spiritual maturity to serve in the first place.
- You are forced to leave because of unrepentant sin, you will leave wrongly.
- If you simply leave without praying about the matter over the course of several weeks, you will leave wrongly.
- You make the decision to leave without discussing the matter with your spouse, you will leave wrongly.
- If you leave without discussing the matter with the advice of peers that know you well and the wisdom of those who are over you in the Lord, you will leave wrongly.
- You think that the decision to leave is solely your decision and that it does not matter what others think, you will leave wrongly.
- If you leave without actually leaving, but stay in the mix as advisor emeritus, you will leave wrongly.
My big point is this: In spite of how discouraged you are, how poorly you might have been treated, or how irreplaceable you think you are, you are accountable to God and others for how you leave.
What is the right way to leave your pastorate?
- The right way is to leave voluntarily because you sense that God’s perfect will for you is changing. He has a slow and steady way of making it crystal clear when He has a new assignment for you.
- I pray you are not forced to leave because of the habitual practice of willful sin. However, if you are asked to leave, for this reason, do so in confession, repentance, and with the assurance that you are doing the right thing.
- You should be prayerfully assured that it is God’s will for you to move on. This process should rest in Scripture and supplication.
- Discuss it with your spouse and come to an agreement. Your ministry is not entirely dependent upon you since the marriage covenant means that two become one.
- Acquire the godly counsel of those who can testify that they have been there and done that. You can learn from their mistakes and from their successful departures.
- You need to talk with those who are over you in the Lord. Their discernment can help you know whether or not you should leave and help you make a wise transition.
For ministers who are members of my tribe within the Kingdom of God, let me speak frankly.
- Pastor, please do not officially resign your pastorate until after consultation with your district (conference) superintendent. God places authority over you to help protect you. When you submit to God-ordained oversight, He empowers you to do more for Him.
- Pastor, please understand that the authority to shut down your local church belongs to your district presbytery (conference council) and that can only be done with their approval, even if you founded the church from scratch. Member congregations within our organization are under the responsible oversight of these godly people who want to help you do the right thing for the Kingdom of God at large.
- As a credentialed minister, you are accountable to your overseers. They don’t seek to hold you back. They want to help you fulfill your ministry.
Know this: seeking wisdom and counsel from others does not deny your competency as a leader. Instead, it causes you to grow and enhances your reputation as a person of wisdom.
Leaving well qualifies you as a person of good character to continue serving the Kingdom of God (Click to Tweet). If you’ve been looking for a sign to tell you how to leave well, this article could be it.
Ministry transitions can be filled with grace for everyone involved when handled with care and prayer. What would you describe as the right way to leave?
More on “How Not to Leave Your Pastorate” can be found here. Click over and keep reading. Join the discussion, leave a comment, and pray for pastors and churches in transition. If you are in the process of leaving, leave well my pastor friend. Leave well.
Written by William Strickland. Pastor of Harvest Christian Center in Cantonment, FL. Husband to Lisa and father to three kids. To read more of Williams’s work, take a look at his blog and be sure to follow him on social media.