How To Leave Your Church or Ministry
I remember the day in college when I went into my youth pastor’s office and started crying when I told him I was going to step out of the leadership team. If you know me I don’t do these two things very often… quit and cry. For some reason my emotions just overwhelmed me.
Over the last 10-15 years I have led a lot of leadership teams. I have seen some great exits and some terrible ones. Usually I see two versions…
1) The fade – The person just fades off the radar and loses touch. This is usually initiated by some new event in their life (a new job/class/major/boy or girl friend, etc). Usually the fade is a bad exit.
2) The train wreck – The person gives you a call the day of event and says they won’t be there, in fact they never will because they are leaving for good.
When I follow up on these exits the people normally tell me they have been praying about it for a while and it is what God wants them to do. This leads me to question a lot of their process and understanding of how God communicates. But my main wish is that the person simply would have brought me into the process earlier so I can help them.
As opposed to a recent major ministry strategic planning meeting I was involved in, I am not into “retaining” people. I want them to respond to the seasons of their life with the support of an encouraging community. This is one reason I try to celebrate people who are leaving our ministry on good terms. I want to say “well done” in front of all their friends as we pray them into their next assignment in the Kingdom of God.
Along these lines I saw this post and thought it had some great recommendations:
Thinking of leaving your church? Here’s how I would do it…
* I would write a letter to the pastors and leaders. In this letter, I would talk about the way God had changed my life through the ministry of that church. I would talk about how some of my family members met Christ there, were baptized, went on missions trips and more. I would talk about how my own thoughts and beliefs were formed through my years at the church. I would talk about how I am more like Christ because of my time there. I would tell stories of specific retreats or camps or services where my life (or those of my family) was changed because of the church and it’s; leaders.
* In this letter, I would not gripe or complain. I would not talk about the stuff I don’t like or decisions with which I disagree.
* In a short paragraph, I would say that “my wife and I have decided to attend and serve in a different church for this next season of our spiritual growth.”
* I would end the letter by assuring the pastor that he/she will never hear us talk badly about this church. I would encourage the pastor to feel free to share this letter with anyone who questions why we left.
* THEN, and this is most important, I would not mail this letter. Rather, I would set an appointment with the pastor and I would hand-deliver the letter. I would read it aloud to him–or ask him to read it in my presence. I would re-state my love for him and profound thanks for the ministry he had in my life.
* Then I would walk away and keep my promise. I would never speak negatively to anyone about that church. In fact, when people asked, I would say, “God changed my life at that church!”