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How to Leave a Church: 3 Tips for Saying Goodbye to Youth Ministry

how to leave a church

Knowing how to leave a church can be just as important as knowing how to come onboard. Discover important insider tips for leaving a church well.

Recently I sat down with a team of consultants at our church. They were helping us refocus on our mission: helping people who are far from God begin a saving relationship with Jesus. During my individual interview, the conversation turned to my career aspirations. One team member asked how long I saw myself being a youth pastor. My answer was simple and genuine. If I reached age 65 and had spent my entire ministry working with high schoolers, God would’ve been far too good to me.

I really meant it. In fact, when I began my first youth ministry job, I loved it so much I never wanted to do anything else. And when some well-meaning soul asked when I was going to move on and become a “real” pastor, that usually upset me. I didn’t see any reason to look forward to something else. After all, God had called me to be a youth pastor.

Today, I’m in a very unfamiliar position. I’m no longer a youth pastor.

Soon after the consultants presented their report, senior leadership asked me to take on a new role. They wanted me to tackle some challenges that held our church back. Even as I write this, I feel a twinge of sadness. I loved being a youth pastor. Not only was it a ton of fun, but God has been far too gracious to me. He gave me the privilege of seeing Him change the lives of countless teenagers and families through Jesus.

Of the youth pastors I know, only a handful are in their 40s, and few are in their 50s. I’m going to take that unscientific observation to mean that most younger youth pastors who are reading this—even those who believe now they are “lifers” and won’t ever leave youth ministry—won’t be leading a youth ministry a decade from now. With that in mind, it’s important to address something we don’t often talk about. Youth workers need to know how to leave a church and/or say goodbye to youth ministry.

Whether you’re in that place now or need to tuck this post away for a few years (or decades), here are three thoughts on how to leave a church.

How to Leave a Church Well

1. Be an Advocate.

Most effective youth ministries have a common ingredient working behind the scenes. They have at least one advocate in the church who reminds other influencers that teens matter to God. This kind of advocate helps the youth ministry (and youth pastor) have the resources needed to reach teenagers far from God with the good news of the Gospel.

By the time you’re a mature follower of Jesus who loves the church, you’ll likely have a certain amount of influence. You’ll have clout with your church leadership and other influencers that you never had in your 20s. So use that influence effectively! Give your youth ministry and youth pastor the support they need to reach local teens.