Thinking of stepping down?
I thought after a bit of a break, it would be good to talk about something practical. Especially in a church context, right now is the time of the year that I like to call ‘the Alamo’. The time of the year when we tend to retreat from our well-meaning commitments that we made back at the beginning of the year when we were in ‘holiday mode.’
Why? Life. That’s why.
There was once a time 5 minutes ago where March seemed so far away that the only way to get there was a Delorean with a flux capacitor, but now; school’s back, uni’s back, kid’s sports are back, work’s back, Tafe’s back and all the programs we run are back. All our time just evaporated in the busyness we created for ourselves and when you’re volunteering somewhere this is the time when freedom from the proverbial ‘ball and chain’ of that ministry you committed to back in Jan looks mighty tempting.
So, before you make that phone call, believe it or not, even in this space you can contribute enormously to the strategic health of your church or organisation. Even if you choose to leave. Here’s 5 questions to maximize the opportunity for personal and community growth as you leave and just maybe, change your mind all together.
- Why did I (really) sign on for this in the first place?
Ask this question. Answer it. Then write it down. Reflect The idea of course is that we ask this before we sign-on to stuff, but the only difference between a sunset and a sunrise is what side of it you’re on.You’re not going to live the rest of your life never signing on to any roster ever again, so take the opportunity to learn from leaving this one.
Now you may be thinking that this question is designed to understand if you were really ‘passionate’ about the ministry that you were serving on. The supposed lesson being that you need to be really passionate about something to hang around for the long term. But you know what? It isn’t.
Let’s be honest, is anyone ever ‘passionate’ about stacking chairs or cleaning toilets each week?
This is the problem with the; ‘ you are called to do great, amazing things for God‘ style of youth ministries, they produce a generation who will advance against an army of thousands but refuse to ‘bathe in the Jordan’. (cf: 2 Kings 5:13)
Sometimes God calls us to do really small, mundane and yep I’m going to say the ‘b’ word; boring stuff, for a long period of time. This question is designed to understand how you serve under certain reasons. It reveals to us, what ‘reasons’ we are willing to let go of first.
And there a many reasons.
- There is/was just a huge need there.
- I’m really darn good at this area of ministry.
- I feel this is in-tune with God’s call on my life.
- (For you singles out there) There’s a bit of a hottie who’s also serving on that team. (Just sayin!)
- It’s in the spotlight.
- It’s not in the spotlight.
- It helps me to feel needed.
- This is just the thing that happened to present itself at a time when I was willing to just do anything for God.
Some of those reasons are good reasons. Some are bad. Some are good ones that can turn into bad ones when we’re frustrated. But whatever you do, know that each one is going to keep you around for a certain length of time different from any others.
For example: if you (assuming there’s no massive life crisis/change) are leaving a ministry after only 6 months that you joined in the first place because there was a real need (which isn’t a bad reason), chances are you may be a little less disciplined than you might like to think.
Take the time to reflect. “Why is the reason I signed up not enough to keep me here?” Maybe because it was a bad reason. Or maybe it was a good reason but it’s revealing a problem in me that I’d otherwise be blind to?
2. Why am I (really) leaving? (And is it an issue that could be solved?)
It’s really simple, the more we keep our reasons to ourselves, the more we contribute to the future problems of others. The other thing of course is that until we have stated the reason out loud, we’ll never know if it indeed could have been an easy fix.
But again deeper than that, this question provides an opportunity to evaluate our own lives. Did my life really change that much, or did I simply become more distracted? The answer may surprise you. But it also may affirm and calm you.
Sometimes we don’t even know how much is really going on in life and how much toll the desert we are walking through has really taken until we stop to turn around and look at the footprints behind us. Sometimes a genuine analysis of our reasons for stepping down inoculates us from the demons of future false guilt when we one day see the ministry we used to be serving on struggle to keep on going.
More often than not however, it will reveal our distractions and even strained relationships within the ministry. Ever noticed how much easier it is to forgive people that you like? Some personalities clash, and when they do, most people either explode or clam-up. But you can only clam up for so long until the need for emotional survival demands that you either address the issue or run. We all know that it’s so tempting in the short term to simply run. So, most do. They run, right onto another roster of another ministry with zero issues actually addressed.
Sometimes we leave things in protest, in order to make a statement. But it’s an extremely ineffective statement because communities tend to move-on 10 times quicker than individuals do. Why? because they’ve got each other. (If you have ever been back to visit your old church 12-24 months after you’ve left, you’ll know what I mean.) ‘Walk-outs’ get only momentary attention. Sometimes, just knowing this can help prevent us making a noob of ourselves.
Lastly on reasons, if you a) find that this is a regular thing or b) are leaving because of exhaustion; there might be a sub-question you need to ask yourself.
“Am I a roster junkie?”
There are people who cannot say “no” to anything, and they end up doing everything and become really effective at nothing because they’re completely burned out. They then take up huge amounts of ministry resources being cared for all because they couldn’t say no. Satan loves tripping churches/ministries up this way, because 5 minutes before they implode, everyone’s patting each other on the back proud of how busy they are, and hence blind to how little fruit they’re bearing.
3.Was I honest about my situation to my leader(s)?
Leaders are not mind readers.
I know right??!! Leaders are not mind readers!
They do however, need to be approachable, and preferably deliberate in creating feedback. But still, leaders can only invite sharing to a point. At some stage folks on rosters need to be clear about any issues they have to the one person who can do something about it. Rather than sharing those issues with everyone but the leader in charge.
Even if we are honest about our reasons for leaving with the coordinator/leader is there any reason why we couldn’t have raised these issues ages ago? Before they got in the way of us staying on the given roster?
Basically, feedback is a two way street.
4. Did I contribute or subtract from a culture of learning?
Did I bother to train my replacement? Before I had any thoughts of leaving?
The ‘Holy Grail’ of volunteer service is not merely when folks serve with excellence but with an intentional audience. Given that the ministry leader/coordinator is aware of it, there is nothing more refreshing than people taking the initiative to identify future volunteers and taking it upon themselves to mentor them.
When we commit to a culture of ongoing training, especially with young people, we are not only teaching someone a role, but the value of Christlike service in it’s own right. In this moment we are loving others in God’s family in the most practical of ways and ironically, making far smoother for us to step down from any given roster in the future as our ‘replacement’ is trained up and ready to go.
It’s pretty much exactly what Paul’s attitude to Timothy was, and it’s worked pretty well for the past 2000 years.
Asking this question and determining to answer it well is the best way to contribute to the long term health of the next ministry roster to find yourself on. Moreover, (aside from in the case of major life changes) I dare you to give it a go for a month before you leave the current roster, and just see what happens. You may find your passion for that ministry re-inflamed.
5. Did I/am I praying about it?
I thought we’d save the most important one last. Ask God about it!
We tend to dispense this advice at the start of things but are no where near as often saying it at the end. But say it we must. I’m am always amazed at the factors that I have been completely unaware of in so many situations that have only been revealed to me through prayer.
One such instance was God reminding me just how much of a privilege it was to serve him and how ungrateful I had become. My ingratitude was stealing my joy and the joy of others around me. This insight opened the door for more joyful passionate service.
On the other hand, God can affirm your reasons for leaving and guard you from future false guilt.
Either way, let’s consult the most important person of all before we step down from any service in any capacity.
So there we go. Just a few ideas to help us know when it’s right to step back and when we’re being challenged to renew our commitment. hope it helps.