I remember the day as clear as if it were yesterday. Sitting at the table in the office, with the letter that would change everything. It was my letter of resignation. I had written it about a month earlier and it was time to share it with my boss, the pastor. We had worked together for over a decade. He watched me grow from a young youth minister into his associate pastor of youth and families. Now, here we were sitting at the table we had sat at so many times before, about to have the conversation that put my transition into motion.
It wasn’t a surprise to him. We had been having this conversation for about 6 months prior. We both knew that it was time for a change. We both had heard from God about beginning the difficult task of me moving on. So, when I slide the paper over to him, he was not shocked. He smiled, slightly and said, “Well, we have some work to do.” He assured me that he would be with me every step of the way. Then he asked me what I needed. I told him that I wanted to “end well.”
I wanted to end strong and end well. For me that meant that I wanted to do the work of making sure that the ministries that were under my charge were prepared for the transition. I wanted to be careful and mindful of the people who I had served, and who had served me in so many ways. I wanted to have as much passion as I did going out as I did coming in. I wanted the congregation to feel as though they were sending me and not simply saying farewell or letting me go. I wanted them to see that this transition was not just about moving on, but it was a response of gratitude for what God had done in my life and the life of the church. I was thankful, and I hoped they would be too, for the years of service, favor, wisdom, grace, and blessings that we all received in our time together. And, my goal was to honor those very things by being obedient with what I heard God calling me to in the next season.
And, so we began the journey of ending well.
What I Learned About Ending Well
As I transitioned out of that ministry, I learned some valuable lessons. But, here are the three things that helped me the most.
- Above all else, honor God in your work. It would have been easy for me to slack off as soon as I turned in that letter. But, I had to keep in mind that just because it was my last months or weeks of work at this place, it was not my last month or week of work forever. As ministers of this Gospel and workers in this calling we are charged to honor God in all our work… no matter how long we’ve been there or how long we have left there. Honoring God in all our work means holding up the same expectations and standards on the last day of a job as we did on the first day of the job.
- Give yourself and others time to transition. Many would argue about the amount of time between when a person resigns and when they actually are gone. I chose a different route than some by staying for 4 months after my resignation went out. I did this because I wanted to offer time for the young people, especially, who I had built strong relationships with. I also wanted to be able to help the staff and volunteers with all the things that come with a leader leaving a ministry. Some of those things might be delegating work to specific staff or volunteers in the interim, helping to plan for the months ahead, helping to connect others to relationships that maybe only you have built over time.
- Celebrate being sent! Leaving a ministry can be a really, really difficult time. It was not the easiest or smoothest time in my life. But, I learned that I had to change my perspective on the situation. The congregation had blessed me with many opportunities to serve, mess up, win, lose, grow, give, and lead. I was so grateful for what they had instilled in me. I was grateful for what they empowered me to do as my ministry was being shaped. And so, my last day was a celebration of being sent out into the world to “go make disciples.” It was a time to rejoice in the fact that God calls all of us to live in the knowledge that God could do “exceedingly and abundantly and immeasurably more than we can dare to ask or imagine.” They were sending me. Releasing me to use what they helped shape to share with others.
Ending well is not easy. It takes a lot of prayer, support, and commitment. But, with God’s help you can transition out of a ministry with integrity and peace as God leads you to your new adventure.