God never promises that life will be easy. In fact, I would say that God promises the opposite. James 1:2 says “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds” – and by various kinds, that could mean self inflicted, through no fault of your own, random, expected…the list goes on and on.
Job transitions are tough. In my field of ministry, they have a unique challenge though. You see, ministry is not a job. Its a lifestyle. Its a calling. We don’t just “go to work” but rather our life is our work.
Recently my life was faced with this very transition. Its tough. Its challenging. I have woken up every day thinking about people in my congregation who were hurting, struggling, dealing with various trials of their own – and its because while I may have left the ministry at that church, I have not left my ministry. My church family isn’t just made up of the people I work for at a certain time, but rather its made up of ALL the people I’ve ever worked with.
But what do you do when you go through that inevitable transition? I think it begins before it ever happens.
Make sure that in your ministry, you don’t isolate yourself. Network, and network some more. Connect with other ministers, churches, and schools. Find people you can confide in, share your struggles with, and pray with on a regular basis who are outside of your church family. That way, when the transition comes, you won’t find yourself alone.
But when that day comes for you to leave your work – what do you? How do you handle it? Here are 5 ways to handle your transition time in ministry, whether you’ve been let go, you’re leaving on your own, or you’re moving to another church.
Realize that your church will move on, and probably a lot quicker than you will. As ministers, we should aim to leave a church just like our mothers told us to treat places we visited – better than we found it. If we have done our jobs, we have prepared the church for the next step, whatever that may be. Don’t be surprised or upset when they start posting a want ad for a new minister, announcing guest speakers, and move forward.
Remember that the church belongs to God, not to you. This is God’s church. God called you, led you, and put you there for a season. But, it will be just fine without you. God will lead a new person there to continue where you left off.
Remember your family is leaving the church as well. Your spouse has been there for you, supported you, waited up late for you after meetings, gone to events with you, and more than likely dedicated a giant portion of time and energy to the church. This hurts them just as much as it hurts you. I count it a blessing that I have a spouse who supports me wholeheartedly, and is always there for me no matter what the situation.
If you have children, remember that they may not completely understand. Its tough on them. I know people say that kids are resilient, and I believe that to be true, but saying things such as “God has other plans” don’t always work with a 5 year old, or a 15 year old for that matter. Be prepared to deal with lots of tears, questions, confusion, and for those of you with older children – resentment.
Don’t let Satan win. The evil one wants you to feel defeated. He wants you to feel like you’re not good enough, or that you’ve abandoned the best thing you’ve ever done, or that no one ever liked you. He will play so many tricks on you to get you to give up on ministry completely. Remember, he’s pretty good at this. You’ll begin to question your motives, your calling, your ability, and all of this is natural to a certain extent.Remember when Satan tells you these things, he’s just trying to get you blame God, to doubt God, to question God, or to give up on God. And the only way you can make sure these things don’t happen is to…
Immerse yourself in prayer. Pray without ceasing. Pray continually. Pray, and then pray some more. If you left on your own, for whatever reason, pray. If you were relieved of your duties, pray. If you were offered a job elsewhere, pray. Pray alone. Pray with others. Pray with your family. Pray for the church you just left. Pray for the church where you will be going. Pray for the church that has yet to be put in your path. Pray about the bad times. Pray about the good things God used you for. Pray, pray, pray.