That headline was plastered on page 1 of the city newspaper. By a 17-6 margin, the deacons and trustees had voted the pastor out. But the pastor refused to budge. The board changed the locks to keep the pastor out. The pastor countered with a lawsuit. During one worship service, as the preacher’s supporters escorted him to the pulpit, they were blocked by a wall of detractors who wouldn’t let them by. When a shouting match erupted 20 policemen were called to the scene. When he finally got to preach, foes heckled the pastor and passed around a “competing” collection plate.
When is it time to leave a church position? To make sure your situation never merits adverse media attention, mull over the following suggestions.
· Why does another job appeal to me? “All the ways of man are clean in his own sight, but the Lord weighs the motives” (Prov. 16:2). If the new opportunity paid the same and didn’t promise to escalate my reputation among peers, would it still pique interest?
· Where can I contribute most to the kingdom of God? How has the Lord put me together to minister in His name? Does the new opportunity allow expanded utilization of my background experiences and ministry strengths? Does the group I currently serve need abilities I don’t posses, or a leadership style that’s foreign to me?
· Who can help me sort through this decision? “Without consultation, plans are frustrated, but with many counselors they succeed” (Prov. 15:22). To apply the principle of multiple counselors, look for people with objectivity from outside your congregation or organization. Consult those with ministry experience who have sparred with similar decisions. And select individuals who know you well, who are familiar with the strengths and weaknesses of your temperament, as well as with your distinctive leadership capabilities.
· Am I tempted to resign due to recent criticism, or an emotional low following an unusually demanding phase of ministry? There’s nothing wrong with “feeling like resigning,” just don’t let negative emotions or temporary exhaustion result in an impulsive departure. If you avoid interpersonal conflicts or unpleasant confrontations now, copping out could become a pattern in your life. Then you’d never reap the benefits of a long stay in one place. If you are too physically or emotionally spent to continue, ask for a sabbatical before making an abrupt change of address.
· How will a change affect my spouse and children? Involve them in the process of praying and weighing the pros and cons. When you candidate at a new location, ask permission to take your entire family.
· Am I finding it more difficult to follow the lead of my senior pastor or supervisor? Am I chomping at the bit to change things over which I have little control? Is my loyalty to the group’s leadership or its direction waning? God doesn’t direct associate staff members to stay on the scene and recruit supporters for their particular agendas.
· What effect will my departure have on the health of people and programs I leave behind? Who will pick up the slack in fulfilling my most essential responsibilities? Have I trained others to teach, to plan a retreat, to chair a committee, to recruit volunteers? Perhaps the greatest indicator of your leadership effectiveness is how the people you serve prosper in the months following your resignation.
· Will leaving now result in broken promises or short-circuit the accomplishment of specific ministry goals? “O Lord, who … may dwell on thy holy hill? He who … swears to his own hurt, and does not change” (Ps. 15:1, 4c). God’s Spirit normally doesn’t lead a Christian education associate to leave in the middle of a program evaluation or attendance drive that he or she instigated. Nor does He nudge a youth pastor to grab the lure of a larger church offer after promising his tenth graders he would stay through their high school graduation. Nor does He usually tell a pastor to accept an unexpected call soon after he promised to chair next year’s city-wide crusade.
What other questions have you asked yourself when determining whether to leave?
If those questions don’t provide a resolution to your dilemma, you can always ask the Lord for a clear-cut sign. Tell Him you’ll resign the day the church board changes the lock to your office, or ushers pass around a “competing” collection plate in the middle of your sermon!
Once you’ve decided to resign, consider how to proceed. That’s the slant of my next post.