The voices leading youth ministry have said for a long time that when it is time to go … leave well. To be honest, I think I’ve even said it in the past. I’m not sure it is possible. Let me explain.
There is no such thing as leaving well. I don’t think it is possible! But you can leave better. Leaving well implies that it is possible to finish perfectly and that every relationship will be amiable or better when you go. Not true … but here’s a few ways to leave without adding to the pain of transition:
Protect the pastor
Don’t cause division in the church – you will only hurt God’s body and leave students and volunteers hurt in the crossfire of departure. Know that God will use that church for His glory, even if you are no longer a part of the leadership. You can’t leave perfectly, but you can minimize damage by controlling your tongue (and ears for that matter).
People ask me all of the time if they should maintain relationships with students and leaders from the past. I say no. There might be a few lifelong friends you stay in contact with, but be careful that your friendship doesn’t deteriorate into dissing the church. It is best to help students transition to the new leader of the youth ministry, even if it hurts more to say goodbye and walk away.
Take a long hard look at yourself. Don’t jump right into your next position. Take some time to get alone and debrief with your spouse or mentor and get alone with God. Leaving is tough on a church, I’d say it is also tough on you, too. Leaving better means choosing not to divide the church, to walk away … and to work on what God reveals to you in the process.
It is impossible to leave without hurting someone. Even if you leave in ideal conditions people will be hurt to lose you as part of the church. Leaving is messy. Leaving isn’t easy. You can’t leave well … but you can leave better.