Sorry I'm late, gang! I spent the past hour on the phone with David Allen, the author of the RevGal-blessed book Getting Things Done, and he really appreciates the feedback that so many of you have been helped by his book. I'll be sure to bring some of the points he touched on back to you once I have a chance to go through the interview. Good stuff.
On to this week's question!
I've been serving a small church for several years, and it seems the time to go is probably not too far in the future. On my side, I'm pretty sure I feel God nudging me to go elsewhere. On theirs, it has become clear that the church really cannot support a fulltime clergyperson. But because I am reluctant to move my family, I've been hedging about looking seriously for the next call.
Now we are reaching a point where push may come to shove, and the financial needs may come to a crisis before *I* am ready to go. If that proves to be the case, I want to go graciously and not make the church members feel worse than they need to feel. But I also don't want to be so concerned about them that I don't look after my own interests.
Do you have any advice about the way you lead up to leaving? *Is* it possible to bolster those you leave behind while watching out for yourself at the same time?
~Growing by Going
Ooh, I hear ya. I've been discerning a stirring as well, wanting to grow, and not sure if that desire for personal growth might trump the people with whom I work. So I've been tidying up my resume, keeping my eyes open, and when something really stirs me to do so, I put my name on the table. Lo and behold if Abi didn't echo this nearly verbatim: "When I served as a Chaplain, our Boss encouraged to keep our resume fresh, keep our options open, and not to be afraid to interview for positions."
It's really difficult to pack up and move when you have a family involved. My son went through four school changes in 18 months when I made a professional and personal decision to move to Virginia, and the move didn't go smoothly. The reason he lives with his dad right now is that I still don't have a permanent home and he's stable for the next couple of years, at least. That stability is so important to our kids, and I hate the fact that my choice to move a couple of years ago has cost me that stability. At the same time, I'm stuck in my current location until he's out of high school because I don't want to be toooooo far away. Ugh. So I understand a lot of that.
Trust your instincts
I had this conversation with someone earlier today when I discovered I had an instinct that she had just confirmed. But both Jan and Abi agree: If you sense it is time to move on, then it's likely a nudge from God—explore it! "I would encourage you to not wait until it is too late," says Abi. "Put yourself in a proactive stance." Jan agrees, saying, "This can take a while, so get started now. Get that resume out there and start searching! Sounds like God is calling you."
Meeting both needs
"Yes, I think you can encourage them and take care yourself as well," says Abi. "Celebrate their strengths, their accomplishments, their pluses. Encourage them that they will be okay, because they are serving God and God is watching out over them. They are not going through this alone. God has given them gifts and graces."
In the meantime, continue to pray, discern, talk to your trusted centers. Abi suggests that you try writing a letter to God as a form of prayer, releasing the congregation to God.
And here are Jan's additional insights on the small-church equation:
Dear Gracious One,
Small, can-barely-afford-a-pastor congregations tend to have a low self-image, and so I see your concern. You love them. You want to encourage them. But you need to search for a new call. Your small church will be fine. Maybe they need a new call also—to become several house churches? Yoked with a neighboring congregation?
Just as The Church of Jesus Christ in general is realizing the need to change paradigms (from 1950s to a 1st century/21st century blend perhaps), your small church might need for you to leave before they realize how seriously they need to change.
Now, one of the pratfalls of our being anonymous here is that we don't know all the variables involved in why they can't afford a full-time pastor, whether demographics are changing, Jan notes. "Are they stuck in patterns that keep them from growing? Or are they happy being 'small' albeit 'poor'?" she writes. It isn't that these really change or influence the answer to the question so much as they are things you may want to consider in how you make the transtion.
Speaking of transitions
This is a transition! To Abi's list of helpful web links.
East Ohio UMC Conference has a Move Pack (pdf) that you may find helpful in this preparation time.
From the Presbyterian Church:
Separation Ethics: When Pastor and Congregation Say Good-bye (pdf, 2003)
Separation Ethics: When Pastor and Congregation Say Good-bye (pdf, 2004)
From the Illinois Baptist State Association:
How to Say Goodbye (pdf)
From Christianity Today's Leadership Journal:
When It's Time to Leave
Other (NonRevGalBlogPal) Bloggers in the Boat, spotted in the wild (and your mileage may vary, as these are male-centric posts):
To all of us feeling the stirring of restlessness in our hearts, I offer up a prayer that God will help us find our path if we don't know it, and guide our steps upon it once we do. Amen!