Monday, July 30, 2012

Still Learning to Leave


A month and a couple weeks have gone by since my original post about leaving well.  We’re now 2 weeks away from our “last Sunday” and driving away, God willing, from the church we've been pastoring for the last 10 years.  Compounding this is that we’re also leaving the province that we've lived in for the last 21 years – which is the longest stretch we've ever lived anywhere.  This is a giant of a transition for our family, especially since we’ll be leaving 2 of us, my son and his wife here on the Island.

This much closer to leaving I have a few more thoughts to share with you on things I feel I’ve learned through and about this process.

1) Unless there are really good reasons for it, the distance between your resignation and actually leaving is probably best held to 30 days.  We’ve exceeded that but for us it’s been helpful as the planting pastors to help chart this course for the very first time.  I wouldn’t make 30 days a law but I’d highly recommend it as a guide.

2) Don’t put off having that conversation, meal, bbq or coffee.  As St. Bruce of the Cockburns remarked, “Don't the hours go shorter as the days go by…”  Indeed they do.   Carpe the diem out of leaving, you won’t get to do this again…at least in the same way.

3) Take the opportunity to speak prophetically into people’s lives.  Don’t take parting shots or set people straight on your way out.  It could be easy to take that route and honestly completely worthless.  Speak words of life and what can be, regardless of what has been.  Don’t lie, but don’t lob grenades on your way out either.

4) People will feel awkward talking about the future around you and the new man or woman or couple who are coming to take the baton from you.  Do your best to make them feel at ease and celebrate the excitement.  Don’t make comparisons or try to subtly or overtly get people from your church to compare you with those who might take your place.  It’s not a competition.

5) Let people make a fuss over you and throw you a going away party or even parties.   This is soul therapy for you and the church.  If people offer help, take it.  Not every leaving is on positive terms but when it is, make the most of the opportunities to celebrate what has been and take time to look at the faces of those whose lives have been impacted by your own.

6) Pray into where you’re going and who you’re going to.  Don’t wait until you’ve left here to start building there.  Pray ahead and speak words of life and encouragement where you are going and the people to whom you will be building a future.

7) Pass the baton.  This whole ministry thing is like a long distance relay.  When you leave it’s time to pass the baton.  Do your best to organize things for the next guy so it’s easier for him/her to grab the baton.  When possible, personally bless your successor, welcome them and relationally hand off what you’ve been carrying and give them the fastest (healthiest) start possible.

These are some of the things I’ve learned through this process.  It hasn’t been perfect or easy but it’s been good.  We’ve done our best to follow God’s Spirit in this process and having just met the couple who will follow our decade here we have great confidence in what God’s going to do next and the leaders He’s called to take the next leg of this marathon.

What have you learned about transitions that would be helpful for others in times like these?

Thanks to Frank and all the other National ThoughtWorks bloggers for letting me share this space with you, it's been an honour.  Blessings on your journey!

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