As a layperson or a church staff member, it’s likely you’ve left a church at some point – or will leave a church in the future. When that happens, I hope you’ll remember the points of this post.
- People will remember how you leave. They’ll forget even the most miraculous works of God to bring you to the church if you leave in a negative way. Even a few weeks of negative can erase years of positive.
- Those who remain may be wounded if you leave poorly. Especially if they’ve loved and respected you, they may not understand why you’ve suddenly changed. Long-term friendships can be broken.
- Your family can be scarred by a bad ending. You might try to shield them from the pain, but few of us do that well when we’re wounded.
- Poor closures usually color future ministry opportunities. Once you’ve been hurt and carry wounds, you’ll always wonder if more wounds lie in the future.
- Division left by bad departures can destroy a congregation’s unity. This sometimes happens when departing members challenge others to take sides on the issues.
- Good departures make ministry a celebration. Rejoicing over victories is always better than battling over remaining disagreements.
- Healthy closure paves the way for the next leaders. One of the best ways to help the church’s next leader is to leave in joyful response to God’s calling – not in anger.
- Leaving well fosters long-term friendships. Moving to a different church doesn’t have to harm relationships if the departure is handled well.
- Good leavings promote Christian unity. Regardless of where we serve, we pray for and love other congregations when we’ve left well. Good memories promote harmony between churches.
- People will remember how you leave. So, I repeat #1 above, but with a different flavor. Leave in a positive way, and churches often forgive years of negative.
What would you add to this list?
Posted on July 14, 2020
Dr. Chuck Lawless is a leading expert in spiritual consultation, discipleship and mentoring. As a former pastor, he understands the challenges ministry presents and works with Church Answers to provide advice and counsel for church leaders.
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I am happy to hear from you,and gain a great understanding on how to leave your church, this has really affected our church in Africa God bless you
I believe this 100%. I have had 3 ministries in 37 years and have been at my current church 23 years. So I have only left two churches but left them well. The last one I left had hurt us deeply, but we maintained our integrity and left well. 8 years later they apologized for how they had treated us. I always tell young ministers to work as hard on the last day as they did on the first day and to leave a church as if they might have to come back one day.
I would add that “leaving in a healthy way allows a church congregation to GRIEVE the loss and accept the change in a much healthier way“.
Very well said, brother. Thank you. I left a 20 year pastorate to become bi-vocational and have remained in the community. My wife and I made a point of leaving gracefully and in gratitude for an overall positive ministry with the church. In 2015, after consultation with church leadership, I announced my resignation with a 30 day notice. 5 years later, we remain friends with many people from the congregation. We are occasionally invited back for homecoming, special dinners, and so forth. We’ve also made a point to be as encouraging as possible to members and the new pastor. We have been intentional about a hands-off approach to how the congregation does ministry since we left. I pray I handled this correctly and set s solid precedent.