· Who should be the first to know that I’m resigning? An associate should inform the senior pastor or immediate supervisor before spreading the word among other staff members or friends in the congregation. I know a pastor who felt betrayed when he was one of the last persons to learn of his associate’s resignation. If you’re the senior pastor, talk to your elders or deacons before church members find out.
· How can I facilitate a smooth transition to my successor? Pose the following questions to other staff members, to the church board, and to key lay leaders whom you supervise: What do you need from me during these last weeks? What information or training will keep things running smoothly until my successor arrives? Prepare a notebook or electronic file for your successor, chockfull of program information, office procedures, and policies integral to the job description. Leave a record of key persons and their contact information. Ponder ways to save this person’s time once he or she comes on board.
· After resigning, how long should I remain in the church and community? The consensus among experienced churchmen is “not long”! Severing your ties quickly expedites acceptance of your successor and minimizes inevitable comparisons people will make. In a Leadership article to pastors, Donald Bubna said, “The sooner one leaves following the resignation, the sooner the healing begins and the church can start to look for a successor.”
Bubna also cautions against frequent visits to the previous congregation, particularly during the first couple years. He says it’s “professional courtesy” to return only with the prior awareness and blessing of your replacement. “Whether or not the split was on friendly terms, any return to the parish needs to be instigated by the new shepherd without pressure from either the prior pastor or his supporters.” Limiting your visits allows for a bonding to occur between the people and the new staff member. A close friend who pastored our church for 18 years recently visited on a Sunday for the first time in six years. But first, he phoned the current pastor to inquire about a possible visit.
How we leave a position says a lot about our character!
What additional questions should be addressed by a staff member who’s planning leave?