After 4 years and an incredible amount of amazing ministry at my church, I felt God leading me to my next step. I watched God do amazing things, and the ministry was still growing and reaching students for Christ but God was nudging my wife and me to our next assignment. We knew the transition wouldn’t be easy and would involve many tears and lots of emotions. I accepted a new position at a new church, in a new state, and while that was exciting, now came the difficult part of making the transition out.
My story is not uncommon. In ministry transitions happen often, and among youth workers they happen even more often. Transitions can be very difficult for everyone involved. When it is time for you to transition out of your current position whether it is to another position, another church, or out of ministry all together, here are 5 tips to keep in mind to make the transition as smooth as possible.
Communicate directly & clearly
First, be intentional about telling people in the right order. Some of the conversations about you leaving will be difficult but that does not mean you omit those conversations. Many of the people in your church need to hear it directly from you. Figure out who needs to know first and work down the list before you make a general announcement.
Next, be clear about where you are going, and where you sense God is leading. Even if it is out of ministry for a season or for the long run, be honest and clear about where you are going.
Don’t bash or boast
There are always reasons for someone leaving. It may be people, politics, church decline, a bad work environment, etc. Or, it might be none of those reasons, besides the fact God simply opened another door for you. But it is extremely important to remember not to bash your current church when you leave or transition out. Even if major issues were the reason you are leaving, leave as the bigger person. Allow God to bless or not bless whomever He chooses, it is not up to you. Don’t bash.
Also, don’t boast. Many times the reason someone moves on is because they are going to a better church or better ministry situation. There is no need to boast about how much better the place you are going is. Stating facts is fine. For instance, the church I transitioned out of was a church of 300 people, the church I transitioned to was a church of 6,000. I stated that fact, but I did not rub that fact in anyone’s face. I did not make any judgments on which church is “better”, I simply stated the facts of where I was moving.
Let students know you are not their savior, Jesus is
As a youth worker, obviously, the people most affected by you leaving are the students. They are left in a very difficult place and often times they can have the tendency to tie their faith to you instead of to Jesus. Students need to be reminded that they have a Savior and it is not you. While the transition is not easy, and emotions are okay, students need to know people come and go but Jesus stays forever and He is the one they need to cling to.
Help pass the baton
Whether you are at the church or not, the students still matter. You know that, it is why you are in student ministry, and it is why you need to do all you can to prepare the group for success even while you are not there anymore. Do everything you can to pass the baton and help the group flourish in your absence.
Keep loving the students
Communicate to the students how much they mean to you and how loved they are by you. Let them know how they can stay in touch with you, and actually stay in touch! Don’t tell students you will stay in touch with them if you won’t actually do it. It will only break their heart, but if you truly desire to stay in touch with them let them know how that can happen (social media, phone number, opening your house for them to visit, etc.)
Transitions are never easy. You may need to carry a box of tissues at all times for yourself and those you encounter, or you may need to restrain yourself from not just running out the front doors and jumping with glee, but no matter the situation of your transition hopefully these 5 tips can help make it as smooth as possible.
Todd has been in youth ministry for over a decade and has a passion for reaching lost students and training youth workers to do the same. He is the founder of Stoked On Youth Ministry, a speaker, author, and pastor. When Todd is not writing or speaking he enjoys surfing, baseball and most importantly hanging out with his awesome wife and three beautiful daughters. You can connect with Todd on Twitter @TheTodd_Jones, Instagram @Todd_Jones or for speaking inquiries visit TheToddJones.com