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Ministry in the Rear View

Julie Beader

 

How to know when it's time to say goodbye to your current position -- and begin traveling down the road to your future in ministry.

Sherry walked inside her church with a heavy heart.
What happened to the joy I used to feel when I entered these halls? she wondered. She used to look forward to Sundays -- they were the best part of her busy week, the most enjoyable part of her full-time role as children's minister. Lately, though, it seemed she couldn't get out of the church quickly enough after the close of the last service. Her disillusionment had been gradual; the differences in how she felt and the distance growing between her and the church insignificant at first. But over time, the slight differences she initially overlooked evolved into chasms that gnawed at her. Lately she couldn't escape one scathingly honest thought: If I weren't on staff here, I wouldn't attend this church. As she walked into children's church, she mustered the strength to make it through one more week. Please, God, help me minister to these kids with a servant's heart.

AT A CROSSROADS

If you're in ministry long enough, at some point it's likely to happen: That nagging sensation in the pit of your stomach turns into a whisper that seems to be saying, Maybe I should just leave. But before you act on that whisper and leave your ministry position, there are important things to consider. First, leaving a ministry role is a very serious decision with big repercussions. In my 15-plus years of ministry I've resigned from three full-time positions, and each was a gut-wrenchingly difficult decision. Leaving is one of the toughest decisions you'll ever make. Don't approach it lightly and don't make a snap decision based on passing emotions or circumstances. If you're seriously considering leaving, approach the decision with prayer and consideration.

Objectively assess your situation. Begin by asking, Is the reason I'm considering leaving based on a difference in opinion or a difference in vision? To make a good decision, you must discern between the two. Is the situation just a matter of taste and style…or is it a philosophy issue? If it's a difference in opinion, you're almost always better off overcoming the differences and learning to live with them rather than leaving. A difference in vision or philosophy on the other hand, is much more difficult to overcome. Ask yourself, Can I support this church's or ministry's vision and philosophy? If, at your core, you don't believe in where the church is going or feel you can't support the vision, then it may indeed be time to look for God's next step for your life and ministry. Staying in a position where you're in conflict with the vision and mission is dangerous for your character and the health of the church. If you can't get in line, get out of the way.

Ask yourself the tough questions. Before you draft your resignation, do some soul-searching. Not only will this help you in your decision-making process, but it will also help you do some honest self-assessment before you begin a new position. Here are some of the key questions to tackle.

Describe your attitude about your position, your team, your leaders, and your congregation.

How does your pride play a role in this situation -- if at all?

Have you genuinely tried to talk to your pastor about the situation? If not, how could you?

Which do you want more: the situation resolved or a way out?

What have you learned about yourself in this situation?

What's your typical MO (mode of operation) when the road gets bumpy? Run away or work toward a resolution?

Is your openness and flexibility affecting your feelings? For example, are you someone who can adapt, or do things generally have to go your way? When was the last time you were wrong?


When you honestly answer these questions, you'll know more about yourself and what's motivating -- or demotivating -- you. You may realize you need to buckle down or refresh your teachable spirit. You may find a new appreciation for the value of faithfulness, of sticking it out when things aren't easy. But you may also realize you've outgrown your role, tried to make the best of a bad situation for too long, or that you're in a place where you'll never feel satisfied or fulfilled.

Wherever you land after you've done the raw, hard work of answering these tough questions, you'll be in a better place for it. You'll also know when you've done all you can do to correct a situation, clearing your conscience if your departure truly is necessary.

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