7 Tips for Leaving a Job Properly

Recently I received the following question. It’s one I’ve been asked several times and one I know is more common as an issue than even asked. I’ve omitted some details for obvious confidentiality reasons, but kept the intent of the question the same.

I am writing you seeking counsel regarding a significantly large decision my wife and I need to make about our continued service at a local church. The church is in turmoil and my wife and I feel released from our commitment here. Leaving is probably the best option, but how do I know for sure and how do I leave “properly”?

Here is my expanded reply:

Leaving is never easy, but many times, even in the worst situations, it can be done in a way that doesn’t further disrupt the church. First, you might consider these two posts:

10 Scenarios to Help Determine if it’s Time to Quit

Discerning a Change of Ministry Assignment

You need to discern first if you definitely feel released to leave and then if you are leaving. It may not be worth putting the energy into deciding how to leave until you decide that you are. If that’s where you are headed…

Here are 7 Tips for leaving “properly”:

1. Make it a decision of prayer and conviction. The more you can remove your personality or personal comfort from the process, the more likely you will be able to convince people you are leaving on good terms and that you are following God’s will and not your own. (As I mentioned previously, it may be that God has released you to make the decision. I find that true many times. Your first step, in my opinion, is to make sure you aren’t violating something God has told you to do or not to do.)

2. Start properly. I know. This is a post about leaving. But, honestly, that process starts long before the door swings closed. The sooner you start preparing people for your eventual exit, the easier your exit will be accepted by people when you do leave. Help cross train for your area. Identify key leaders who could fill in for an interim. You don’t even have to share all this information, but be thinking ahead of time who those people might be. Start making lists of things you do that others may not know. Think in terms of “if I’m not here, then…” and write some of that stuff down to share when you leave.

3. Discuss with and seek wisdom from one or two people you trust, who know you and the church. You’ll need a sounding board to help you confirm your decision, but also to help determine the timing and approach of your exit.

4. Develop a plan, with counsel and prayer, of how and when you intend to proceed. You’ll need to decide who to contact first, when, and how to tell the church. This will likely be different for every church.

5. Don’t throw punches on the way out. There’s never a win and often a lasting negative when a person lashes out in the final days of their involvement with a church. Any credibility gained can be quickly lost based on the way the person handles their exit.

5. Work to protect spouses and children. Ministry can be very cruel and may even get ugly before it heals. Don’t allow your family dynamic to suffer because of the problems of the church.

6. Prepare your own emotions. It is likely to be hard leaving, even if things are miserable at the time. Chances are you’ve invested your heart in this church. You started with vision and enthusiasm. You felt a call to go there. You never intended things to turn out like this. Regardless of why you are leaving or what you are going to do next, it won’t be easy walking away from something you have loved.

7. Don’t end when you walk out the door. Be available to further assist them as needed in the months after you leave. It may not be welcomed or needed but offering is the graceful way to exit and the right thing to do.

Make this post better:

What would you add about leaving properly? Have you ever left when the church or organization was in turmoil? How did you handle your exit? Looking back, what did you learn to help others?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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8 thoughts on “7 Tips for Leaving a Job Properly

  1. Once the decision has been made and communicated to your supervisor (for a senior pastor this is likely your board), a subsequent conversation must take place. This follow up conversation should consist of answering a single question: "What does finishing well look like?" Sadly, in too many cases the employee has every intent on 'finishing well', but the board (or his boss) had a different picture in mind as to what that would entail.

    Now is no time for assumptions. Get specific. Agree on what a brilliant run to the finish line would look like. And then go for it!

  2. Great Post! Thank you! Don’t Leave Impulsively – Leave In God’s Timing. When God released me, I ran as fast as I could and I did not wait on His timing. I left a gap in the flow of ministry. God’s timing is purposeful, He may release you from something and you feel that He has, but wait on His timing to go. In persevering until the timing is right, God finishes what He started, He bookends the season… if the season is not bookended by God’s timing, you find yourself restless in your spirit when you begin a new thing, you have trouble focusing on the present. If you don’t wait until God bookends that season and you leave a gap between the two season of your life, I find that is a spiritual open door for the enemy to come in and torture your mind! LOL! Been there and felt that!
    Twitter: kmac4him

  3. Ron, very good post. Sadly, too many Pastors are engulfed in turmoil in their churches.The stress on the Pastor's wife and kids is heartwrenching. A deacon recently told me that it was just "part of the call" and it should be accepted else the family shouldn't be in ministry. Wow! Check out a book called "Pastor Abusers" by Kent Crockett and Mike Johnston. Thanks for your ministry.
    Dr. Cobb