4 years ago today was our last day serving the youth ministry at our home church.
My wife and I had volunteered for nearly twenty years before I had taken the director of youth ministry position eight months prior. I didn’t plan to go out the way it happened, that choice was taken away from me. Therein lies the reason for these tips for churches, their pastors, and their boards.
1. Support those being called into a different ministry from your church.
As churches we are to equip and send out. The command for all Christians is to “go into the world.” Don’t allow fear of losing people to overcome your commitment to sending out your folks. Even if you’re a struggling church, support anyone that has a true gifting and calling to serve others. It isn’t a competition.
2. Ask how you can help those being called to fulfill their calling?
Pastors, you have experience you can share. Truths can warn them about. You know the tools needed, the stresses faced, and the reality of the calling. Give them the time to learn from you, to be mentored by you.
When I told my pastor I was leaving, in 7 months, to follow this new calling, I expected to be allowed to continue the work I was doing, as well as hopeful I might gain some insight from him. He was a great man, and had served many years. It wasn’t fully his decision to send me out there door a little more than two weeks later, it was a board decision.
3. Pray for their success, their faith, their families during this time of transformation.
It is often a very difficult and stressful decision to follow the Lord’s calling to any ministry, most definitely pastoral ministry.
For me, I had this youth ministry calling for some ten years or more and continued to serve and be there for every single thing the former director scheduled for the youth. I loved what we did, and then when I had the opportunity to be the director, I made all the changes I thought were needed to make the ministry more successful, to serve and help grow the faith of the youth and include them in the life of the church. So it wasn’t an easy decision to follow the Lord’s calling to leave and start something new. I cried, I wrestled, I cried out to God, and my wife did as well.
4. Let them leave well.
It should be the right of that person to announce their calling and leaving to the church family. It isn’t for you to make yourself look good by offering praise of them from the stage but not allowing them to address the folks themselves.
I know every situation is different. For my wife and I, we’d spent more than twenty years serving our church in many facets. However, the decision was made for me not to be the one to share this new calling with the congregation, and I was barely able to tell the kids myself that same evening. This caused a lot of hurt, bitterness, and some others chose to leave that church because of what they witnessed. It could have gone so much better and would have been a witness to all of what it means to send out the faithful that desire to live out the Lord’s calling.
5. Support their families.
Show love to their family. Don’t forget the impact of picking up and moving from a beloved church family to step into the wilderness on the spouse, (and family). The family matters and needs support as much or maybe more than the one being called. They are left trusting their spouse’s word and the Lord’s revelation to their spouse. They don’t have the personal experience of “hearing/feeling” the calling.
This was the toughest part and what hurt the most. My wife was removed from supporting a youth in their faith journey. My wife wasn’t seen as nothing more than, well, I don’t know honestly. It was simply wrong. No love was given, just the removal of her existence from the church she grew up in by those “in control” at the time.
You have an opportunity.
Make the best of it no matter how hurt, scared, you may feel. If the person is in good standing with you, you should surely not ruin the experience by being self focused and fearful. I pray you get it right!
As for my wife and I today, we are blessed. It wasn’t long before I saw God redeem the situation for me and our future ministry at the time. He called, and I, (we), have tried to be as obedient as possible since. I left what I loved, a dream position and passion, to begin the journey to what He called me to in that season. Even now, He has molded and moved us, and our ministry, into what He desires, and that is my only hope and prayer for Him to do.