How you leave a ministry is as critical as why. Here are seven musts for a smooth exit.
1. Go on time. Don’t be early or late; they both cause problems. Wait until you have been released by God, then go in peace. I have only been late in leaving one time, and if I could do it over, I would have left earlier. On time is the best time!
2. Go quickly. This means different things to different people. Ask your leader how much time they would like you to allow ( i.e., month, two weeks, or immediately). I think the faster the better! If God has released you, it’s over, so leave.
3. Go with your mouth shut. This is the hardest one. Don’t contact church people; let the Pastor tell others how he wants it told. Don’t fellowship with people you have never had fellowship with before you resigned. There are always those who want “the dirt”—beware of people wanting to be your friend that have never wanted to be your friend before.
4. Be positive. If you can’t be positive because there is nothing positive, go back to number 3 and go with your mouth shut. I have left four churches; each move has been different. Sure, there were some negative things that happened along the way, but I choose to dwell on the positive.
5. Always leave in a way that you can come back for a visit or attend church there, no matter what has transpired. Walk in integrity! Point loyalties to the leadership, not to yourself. You get to move on; they have to stay. When you do come back, come back right! (We’ll discuss this more later.)
6. Leave the ministry in better shape than you found it. I believe a mark of true success is you’ve left a successor. Leadership might not want them, but you should be training and raising up others for them to choose from. You’re only as effective as your team.
7. When you leave, leave! Don’t call workers. If you have special friendships, be a friend, but don’t discuss church stuff. A rule I have followed since I made my first ministry change in 1983 is don’t go back and visit unless you are invited by the Pastor or have his permission to attend. (It’s been a good rule, too!) Don’t allow workers or staff to call you and talk about the church. If people are saying bad things about you after you leave (and they will), let God defend you. Here’s a great truth to live by: “You cannot control what others do, but you can control your attitude and reactions to their choices. Make good ones!”