Addition by Subtraction: When God Moves Someone Out of Your Ministry

Do you ever lose people from your ministry? Of course you do! It’s a natural and common occurrence. Sometimes it’s people we don’t mind losing (be honest!) and sometimes we cringe when we learn of their departure.

Some people can be more of a bane than a blessing:

  • Whiners and complainers
  • Those who refuse to abide by basic guidelines
  • Bitter and unhappy people
  • Renegades pursuing their own agenda instead of sharing a united vision

You know who I’m talking about…you’ve got some names in mind right now.

Then there are some people who seem like the backbone of our ministry:

  • Always encouraging 
  • Question things positively and appropriately
  • Caring and supportive of those around them
  • Initiators of things that expand our vision

Again, names are popping into your mind, aren’t they?

It happens. But I’ve learned that if my ministry is aligned properly, and as a whole I and my team are seeking after God’s will, then more often than not people leaving actually ends up being “addition by subtraction.”

Here are a few things I’ve learned about people leaving my ministry: 

1) I never try and talk someone out of leaving…ever.

This can be hard when people you love and appreciate decide it’s time to move on. I will have a conversation about the “why’s” and, if there’s an issue I can address will try and do so. However, if someone comes to me and says they feel God is leading them away, who am I to question? I have to trust that their relationship with God is such that they are correctly sensing His leading. If this is the case, I will thank and honor them, and then do everything I can to help them get reestablished in a new area of ministry.

I may cringe inwardly at the gap that is left in my ministry, but time after time I’ve seen God fill that gap in ways I could never imagine.

Addition by subtraction. 

2) Regardless of the stature of the person or the size of the position they fill, losing a negative, bitter or divisive volunteer (or staff!) is never a bad thing. 

Sometimes we change direction in our ministries and long-time volunteers can’t seem to make the change. Sometimes people become bitter (or ______________ – fill in the blank) because of life circumstances having nothing to do with ministry. Sometimes we offend individuals with our leadership style or through other issues.

It’s always my responsibility as a leader to resolve issues that I can resolve, but when these people can’t be satisfied, they tend to become very disruptive. Seeing them leave might leave a “huge” gap, but they take their bitterness, anger, or disruptive attitudes with them.

Addition by subtraction. 

3) As I develop leaders over a period of time, my goal should be to release them into greater ministry opportunity. Sometimes that means moving them into areas other than “my” area. 

Our job as leaders is to equip people to do the work of ministry and to develop leaders. Leaders naturally are capable (and desiring) of more as they grow. If I’ve got leaders who are bumping up against their leadership capacity lid, it’s my job to find new opportunities for them to fulfill their leadership capabilities.

Sometimes that means sending them into other areas of the church, or moving them into a greater role within children’s ministry – leaving a big gap where they currently serve. Trust God to fill that gap.

Addition by subtraction. 

Losing leaders doesn’t have to be a bad thing. If your heart is right and your ministry is “right” in God’s eyes, then expect Him to refine and shape your ministry for greater good. Often times that means moving people on that are hurting or holding back your ministry, though sometimes we don’t understand it at the time. Sometimes that means moving people on for the greater good of the Kingdom though it might seem to be a step back for our ministry. But if He’s got something great in mind for the ministry He’s moving them into, then chances are good He’s got something great in mind for the ministry He’s moving them from (yours!)

What I’ve learned is that addition by subtraction can be a very good equation for the health of my ministry.  

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Greg Baird
Greg Baird is a Children’s Ministry veteran with over 20 years ministry experience. Greg has had the privilege of serving in four San Diego area churches, including under the leadership of both John Maxwell and David Jeremiah. He continues to fulfill his life calling through the ministry of, offering an experienced voice in equipping and connecting Children’s Ministry leaders around the country and around the world.

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