The only constant in church staffing seems to be the reality that "at some point, we all go."
I remember sitting down over coffee a few years back with one of my mentors, a guy named Tom. I was considering next steps for myself and my family, knowing God had put a vision in our minds and hearts to lead a local church to see and experience the glory of God. It was in this meeting where I explained my super romanticized ideal for pastoral ministry. I said to him, "Tom, I want to retire at 65 from the church I plant at 29." And he quickly asked, "Why? That's not the call."
His point was simply that at some point, we all go. And that's ok.
Recently we've said goodbye to our own church and watched as God has taken us to a new community and given us a new mission field. And even more recently, some of our good friends have left this new church to do the same. And it's had me reflecting on the reality of God's calling and rearranging in the church he loves so much.
Here are three thoughts I hope every church member can reflect on...
Leaving is not an indictment on the church.
When we left our former church, we weren't asked why God had called us to another place. We were asked, "What's wrong here?" And that's a tough spot to be in as a pastor who loves the church. And that's an unfair question for anyone to have to answer, especially when there's nothing left to lose. The always correct answer to that question, regardless of the church, is "A lot... But that's not the point."
Sure, occasionally there is frustration or disappointment with how a staff member felt they should have been treated. But on the whole, I've noticed God planting visions and burdens within the hearts of the people who transition on to new ministries, and they do so with the heart to honor God and love the church. Even the slick and sexy North Point is not immune from God calling good people away from the team.
Transition is opportunity for God to stretch the staff and the congregation.
I was convinced that when I left the previous ministry we gave leadership to, God would fill our spot with someone even more passionate and gifted than us. And we were right. And in that way, our previous church was stretched and, I'm convinced, the ministry will thrive even more. And when we arrived at our new ministry, we found ourselves being grown and challenged in even greater ways. And I believe both us and the church are better off for it.
Creating space to say "Thank You" isn't easy, but it's necessary.
When we left our previous church, I took special care to say "thanks" to a few key people who had poured into me as a pastor, and I'm glad I did because I think it reinforced the reality that we felt God had this other thing in mind for us. My only regret is that I didn't fight harder to say thank you to the wider church for the decade of growth I experienced as a disciple, and for the 6 years I grew there as a pastor.
Even more recently, our good friend Dustin Rouse transitioned off the team at Bethel to a church in Houston called The Church Project. Dustin transitioned incredibly well. He finished his responsibilities, showed up to work, transitioned the team, and even wrote a letter to Bethel Church saying "thanks." And if you missed it and attend Bethel, give it a read.
Transition isn't easy, but hopefully we can quit making it all about us and recognize that God is in the business of building his church. And sometimes it means rearranging the pieces. And it really has little to do with us, and a lot to do with Him.