Are you considering a change? Transitioning from one church to another is one of the most difficult decisions any leader can make.
It’s tough to know how and when to leave. Waiting until a termination or when the circumstances are so toxic you must escape is obviously not ideal. In tough situations like that, it’s best to move quickly through a series of mature conversations, agree upon a win-win scenario that is in both the church’s and your best interests, and then resign.
The purpose of this post is not to deal with those difficult situations, but to focus on the more common transition from one good church to another good church.
The goal here is to provide a series of questions to help you process what God is saying to you, and avoiding the unwanted situation of staying too long.
Seven questions to help you discern if it’s time to leave:
1) Do you have a sense that you have completed what God sent you to do?
What was your vision and dream when you came to the church? Have you fulfilled that? Are you happy with the results of your leadership? Is there more that you know you can or need to accomplish?
There is a difference between restless and finished. Restless is often a sign of being distracted, uncertain about what to do next, or just bored. Being “finished” is something you and God need to agree on and there should be clear evidence to back your thoughts.
As a leader, you may be restless, but it’s important to finish well. If you have not accomplished what you set out to do, perhaps God needs you to stay and finish.
2) Have you given 100% of your effort and energy?
Every church deserves your best shot, and you owe it to yourself too. Have you worked smart and worked hard? Be careful not to get sidetracked with low priority interests and endeavors. Don’t leave if you haven’t given it your all. How long have you been there? Sometimes you just need more time. You may be surprised at the difference in results and get excited about staying.
3) Are you leaving the church in a good financial situation?
It’s all too common for a pastor to leave the church in difficult financial circumstances. You may be sensing a stir within to leave, but if six more months or so of your consistent leadership would strengthen the church’s financial position, then staying may be the right thing to do.
Paying down debt, finishing a capital campaign, completing a building project, or even smaller things like refinancing a key loan in the church can make a big difference in your legacy as a pastor.
4) Are you considering leaving because you are tired or frustrated?
We’ve all experience the Monday morning blues where we’d take nearly any call that comes for a new church. That’s not the time to go. The next church may be bigger and the pay may be higher, but the grass is never greener.
Every church environment and culture has its challenges. You may just need a good vacation. Get some rest. It’s amazing how that can change your perspective.
Something as simple as some time off can give you great clarity on leaving or staying. And if you are to leave, it helps you leave with the right spirit.
5) Are all relationships, as far as it depends on you, in peace?
Don’t leave if there are relationships that need to be cleaned up or an important relationship that needs restoration.
You will regret leaving relationships undone. Not everyone wants to be at peace with you, that’s not your responsibility, but for all those where peace is possible, (Romans 12:18) you take the lead and get healing, harmony or at least agree to disagree.
6) Have you discussed this with your inner circle?
What do those closest to you think? Do they agree this is the right thing do to? Do they think this is the right time? What does your spouse think? What do your key advisors think?
Ultimately you must decide, but never make this decision rashly or without counsel. Too much is at stake. Leaving the right way or leaving at all is a big deal. It’s a major stress in your life and the life of your church. You can reduce stress, and strengthen your legacy by leaving well.
7) Do you have a clearance from God that you are released from your ministry?
What does God say? If He says go, then go. But candidly, I have found that if you can’t answer these questions above with inner peace and confidence, you may be listening to yourself more than God. Only you and God really know, but I don’t want to see you make a move if it isn’t time, or if you haven’t done what you need to do first.
Of course there are other things for you to consider before you leave, but these will get you well on your way to discovering the answer and doing it the right way.