[Note: It is important for the readers to know that this “open letter” is not to anyone specific. I do not know of someone preparing to leave or in the middle of this difficult process. I simply am speaking from 20 years of experience (and even my own success and/or failure in this area) and from the number of opportunities God has now given me to consult with churches who are in transition between youth pastors.]
Departing Youth Pastor,
When you decide to leave, please do us a favor and leave well.
I totally understand that you’re leaving for any one (or combination) of a myriad of reasons. But whether you’re leaving for something bigger or better, or leaving because you’re bitter, please be aware of the wake of your departure and the damage it may cause.
Yes, I completely understand the temptation to justify your position as to why you are leaving or why you were asked to leave, but please do everyone a favor and protect the bride (the church)–even if this specific church or a few select people did some things or will do some things wrong. I get it, you want others to feel what you have felt, you want all to know how hard it was to make this decision (or to have had it made for you) and you desperately want to hear, “It just won’t be the same without you.” But I simply want to encourage you to do the hard thing and take the high road. It is the better way and you will not regret it.
Whether you’re leaving by choice or have been asked to leave, others in your care will ask “Why?” Of course, you or others have many reasons why this move is taking place. But just because there are many reasons doesn’t mean that everyone is entitled to know them. You (and others) can protect that information. Most of us are on a “need to know” basis and we don’t need to know.
Any departure is tough, you likely love the masses, and probably dislike a few. Those few may be under your skin. Don’t let that outnumbered bunch mute the amazing chorus of your many friends, and the celebration of many victories God granted in your ministry. You loved the ministry, the students, your teammates and the families. Continue to love these people well by leaving well; bless them with words of encouragement rather than looking to fuel your pride. Flee the youthful lust of self-satisfaction. It’s too easy to let Satan kill, steal and destroy the precious memories made and victories won.
Your flesh will literally want to hear things like:
“You left some big shoes to fill”
“What will I do without you?”
and the worst one, “I heard they are leaving the church because of this too.”
Oh how I cringe at that last one. But in not leaving well once, I can admit that I wanted to hear those words. I wanted for others to see it my way, even though I knew that was wrong. I wanted others to leave with me. How immature is that?
There is much more to say in this letter… perhaps I’ll write more later, but for now, please know that I understand that it is hard and you likely have been and will be sinned against at some point in this process, but I can only urge you to do what is best in the long run. Bless others on your way out with words that protect the bride, that bless the ongoing ministry and pray for the transition of the new ministry leader. You will not ever regret doing these things.
Remember, these are our eternal teammates and and our war is not to be against one another, but rather against the enemy who is looking to divide us. Look to be a good teammate!