Posts Tagged ‘pastoral resignations’

Several years ago, I had breakfast with the president of a seminary in Africa.

He told me that pastoral transitions are handled poorly almost everywhere … and much of the time, major conflict breaks out as a result.

Although I’m still a learner, let me share three brief guidelines for pastoral resignations:

First, make the announcement sooner rather than later.

There are at least two schools of thought on this point.  When a pastor definitely knows that he’s going to resign:

*Let the information leak out slowly.

*Make a public announcement and get it out in the open.

In most cases, I favor the latter approach.

If a pastor tells a few people in confidence that he’s leaving, one of them will invariably tell others … including their spouse … but few will share the pastor’s reasoning accurately.

The more people who know, the more they’ll speculate as to why he’s really leaving … and the pastor can easily lose control of the situation.

My first ministry as a youth pastor went well, but I was only part-time, and the church wanted to hire a full-time associate pastor … and I was too young for that position.

When I knew that I wasn’t going to be staying, I stood in front of the church, announced my resignation … effective a few months later … and ended all speculation that I would be the new associate.

This allowed me take control of the situation.  I announced my reasons for leaving publicly, and gave people plenty of time to adjust to my departure.

It’s hard to keep secrets in churches.  Better to just get it all out in the open than to play games.

Second, leave a gap between the last pastor and the next one.

I know a church where a staff member left one Sunday, and his replacement started the next Sunday.

That’s as disconcerting as having your mother die, and a week later, your father remarries.

People need time to grieve the departure of a pastor or staffer, especially someone who has meant a lot to them or been in the church for a long time.

And if people don’t have the time to grieve, guess who receives the brunt of their criticism?

That’s right … the new guy.

In the case of a staff member, it’s better to plug the gap with volunteers from inside the church … other staff members … board members … and even people hired from outside the church.

In the case of a senior pastor, it’s better to bring in special speakers until an interim arrives.

After a little while, people will start asking, “When’s the new guy coming?”

That’s far better than hearing them say, “This new staffer doesn’t compare to our beloved __________.”

Finally, leave the church completely.

Just yesterday, a former church leader told me what happened at his church.

The pastor of his church was retiring, so he resigned … and stayed in the church.

The result?

The church split.

Why would that happen?

I know why.

After I resigned from my first staff position, another position opened up … church custodian.  (The theological term is ecclesiastical engineer.)

I planned on getting married … needed a full-time job … and was hired to clean the church.

The church went on to hire an associate pastor, and we got along well.

But people began approaching me to complain about the youth program … and about the associate pastor.

I listened … but shouldn’t have.  Sometimes I commiserated … but should have kept my mouth shut.

The associate worked for the senior pastor … not for me.

But because I was a former staff member … and many people knew me … my opinion carried weight.

And I’m sure my opinions were shared with others.

Without thinking, I was undermining the associate pastor just by my presence on the church campus.

Pastors and staff members: please … when you resign … LEAVE THE CHURCH.

Only return if you’re invited.

It doesn’t matter how many of your friends or family members attend that church.

It doesn’t matter how long you’ve served.

It doesn’t matter if your kids were dedicated and baptized there.

It doesn’t matter how cordial and kind you are.

Your presence will undermine your successor and confuse God’s people … so after your last day, pack up your things and go … please.

My second staff position was in a church that had existed for nearly a century.

In the back of the church, little plaques listed the name of each pastor, along with the years he served.

Back then, those names and dates meant nothing to me.

But today, I’d look at those names and ask:

I wonder how well each transition was handled?

If a quarterback fumbles a handoff, the other team may end up with the ball.

My prayer is that God’s servants will hand the ball off so wisely that the devil and his teammates never touch that ball.






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