How to leave a ministry position and finish well

A friend of mine is leaving his youth ministry to attend seminary and asked this question on the Facebook group, Youth Pastors Only: As I prepare for a transition in the next month and a half, do any of you have advice for what I can do to “leave well?” I feel that I can relate to this question due to my recent transition from my former ministry in Texas to where I am now in Minnesota.

As I prepare for a transition in the next month and a half, do any of you have advice for what I can do to “leave well?”

Here’s my response:

1. Don’t make promises you won’t/can’t/shouldn’t keep. For example, “I’ll come back and visit you guys” or “You can still call me whenever you want.” Students will cling to these statements emotionally and be hurt again in the future when they’re not fulfilled. If you’re planning to visit again next year on vacation or something, that’s fine, but don’t tell them just so they’ll feel better. Do your best to make it a clean break for the sake of the ministry and the next person who takes the position.

2. Decide which of your responsibilities MUST continue and delegate them to volunteers. If you have the time, take a week or two to overlap your involvement in these areas to ensure a smooth transition.

3. Listen to everyone. There will be so many different responses to your departure. What’s important is not that you address every concern (or relief!), but that everyone feels that you’ve heard their voice and feel that its respected and valued.

4. Once you leave, it’s hands off. Don’t contact people to see if you’re missed or entertain those who contact you to continue with some follow-up work or complaints. And when a new person takes over and students contact you about how it’s different (because it will be), always encourage them to be positive and support the new leader.

5. Never bad-talk anyone, especially if you’re leaving with tension. You don’t have to support various decisions and people, but don’t tear the ministry apart even further just so you feel like you’ve had the final say and got your revenge. Leave with grace.

Posted on March 27, 2007

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