79167807As a former pastor’s wife, I’ve wanted for a long time to write a post titled “How To Leave A Church Well.”  When I look back on our 20+ years of church ministry, the biggest pain points were connected to people leaving the church.

It wasn’t that they actually left.  It was HOW they left.

Church leaders know that people will come and people will go. They expect that to happen to a certain extent.

What no heart can be prepared for is the crickets. You know the silent slip out the door without as much as a thank you.

Thank you for dropping everything and coming to the hospital when our son was in his accident.

Thank you for meeting with me weekly when my wife left.

Thank you for the marriage counseling you and your wife provided when we were in a crisis.

Thank you for organizing meals when I went through my cancer journey. 

No ministry couple gives to get. When you go into ministry, you know that serving is what is needed.  However, you’re human and you are touched positively and negatively by the actions of others.

Please, if you’re going to leave a church that has made any investment in your life, take time to thank those who invested in you and let them know personally of your decision to attend elsewhere.

You won’t hurt them more by having the conversation.  You’ll hurt them more by NOT having the conversation.

My friend, Angie Reedy, recently wrote about the topic of leaving well. Her words express my feelings well and they were written to encourage all of us to leave well, in general.

Do you need to move on in some area of your life? May Angie’s words give you additional direction for how to leave a positive lasting impression.

Angie 3_2012If first impressions matter, then last ones do too.

I’ve spent hours planning a first day of work outfit, deciding what to say when meeting someone for the first time, or memorizing the right descriptors I’ll use to introduce myself. A smart suit. A warm smile. A witty response. All good for the firsts.

But what about the last? The last impression is just as important because it’s based on so much more than outer appearances. It’s about grace, character, and leaving a good reputation.

It’s important to stick with our commitments, be someone to count on, and not take the easy way out. But we change and life circumstances change. Through all of the changes, our commitments evolve and sometimes it become obvious that the time to move on to a new season is now.

So how do we graciously stop doing something that we’ve always done? Let’s start with these:

  1. Be truthful about the reasons for leaving. Easy if you’re moving out of town. More difficult for most everything else. If you’re leaving for a less than positive reason, don’t lie. Don’t make up an excuse. Your friends are smart and they’ll see right through it. Affirm the good things about the group, but state a careful explanation about why it’s time for a change.
  2. Be kind. Once the decision to leave is made, it’s not time to bombard the group with a million ways they could be better. Be respectful to the group and affirm support of each individual in their involvement in the group.
  3. Be available. Especially if your leaving will create a vacancy in a leadership position, offer to meet with your successor. Document helpful tips of wisdom you have gleaned in the position.
  4. Keep in touch. Leaving a group doesn’t mean friendships with individuals need to end. Maybe there will be just one or two people to remain in contact with. Make specific effort to exchange contact information with them. Then be the one to initiate a friendship outside of the group.

These ideas are certainly not the easy way out.  It would be less painful to simply turn and walk the other way. But the easy way out is hardly ever the right way out. Put in the extra effort and challenge to leave a good last impression.

What about you? Would you add any other suggestions to what Angie and I have shared?

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