Another great guest post in the Rookie Pastor Paternity Leave series.
There is no equivalent to hi-ho silver and riding off into the sunset for pastors leaving ministry. There may be a potluck with skits, soup and buns and maybe a tasty cheese ball with crackers, but while the departure of a pastor is often met with mixed emotion let us be sure – there is a good way and bad way to leave.
To leave ministry well is a test of character inasmuch as it is an opportunity to acknowledge, celebrate and yes even grieve the sojourning history of a pastor and his or her church. Whether recalling the peaks of Christ-centered living found in a shared past or the rocky crags where pastor and church stumbled together, one thing is certain there is always room for grace. As the narrator in Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life expresses, “Grace doesn’t try to please itself. [Grace] accepts being slighted, forgotten, disliked. Accepts insults and injuries.”
The resignation of a pastor may be met with applause or tears. This shouldn’t surprise us at all. Pastoring is measuring life by laugh lines and salt-watery eyes. It is inhaling when everyone else is exhaling. It is the pastor along with his capacities that are laid bare before the community he has been given and given to. Lord knows there is a sense of release when the journey of walking together, pastor and church, to some faithful place is over.
Goodbyes between pastors and churches may be light on the theatrics but there is often a surge of emotion inside pastors and those they lead. After walking by faith and through fire with one another it proves difficult to part ways. A church and its pastor experience nothing less.
Whatever the reason for leaving (and there are many); citing irreconcilable differences, personality conflict or simply making an exit after its become clear that coasting is not something a pastor is called to, it is best to go with grace.
One should understand that when confronted with unwelcomed change, people tend to feel vulnerable and insecure. Followers of Christ are not always at their best during this time. So as a pastor makes for the door their church is in need of some reassurance. Pastors have a unique opportunity to ensure grace and understanding is incoming while they are outgoing. A pastor does well if they actively encourage, empower and equip their church amidst the uncertainty and insecurity of their departure.
When it is time to leave put a little love in it. Say goodbye like you give a blessing.
Jesse Pals is a former young adults Pastor and current MDiv candidate at Regent College in Vancouver, BC. His primary interests are missional leadership, sociology of religion and creative writing. He is always looking to engage others in exploration and discovery of meaningful ideas that reflect the goodness and love of Jesus. He has recently started blogging about his return to seminary. You can connect with him via:
Blog – http://www.jessepals.com/
Twitter – https://twitter.com/JessePals
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/jesse.pals
Email – email@example.com