After ten years of serving as a pastor in my home church, my family and I came to a place where we knew that God was calling us forward into our next season of life and ministry. The decision to resign our position was difficult, emotional, and was made only harder by the many incredible relationships we’d be seeing much less of. Not only that, uprooting our family from our church, friends, neighbourhood, and city isn’t a particularly easy process – a process we’re still walking through.
In communicating our transition, we wanted to be very careful to clearly articulate our heart, the process, and our future. But how to do that? How do I write a resignation letter to my church? What elements would it include, how much detail should I give, etc.? I’d never done this before and so, like every good preacher, I turned to Google for some help…and it turned up very little. In an effort to help fellow pastors navigate similar transitions, I’ve compiled a list of suggestions that may help you formulate some of your own thoughts in writing a resignation letter.
I’m not sure how these suggestions would work if you are leaving in turmoil, but there may be some transferable elements. That said, I want to stress that I haven’t written this to suggest that you should leave your church, rather, if you are already in that process – here is some help.
1. Express Your Emotion:
Give some indication to your church the inner struggle you’ve had in coming to the decision you have. If you love your church, and I hope you do, express that love, care, and concern for them and ensure to articulate it well.
2. State Your Move:
Don’t save the announcement to the end or sidle up to it. Make clear your intention near to the start so that the rest of everything you say/write comes in the context of your move.
3. Clarify What You Value in the Church:
This can be an emotional time in a church where the church is asking identity-type of questions about who they are and who they might become. This is a chance to point to some of the great things your church is involved in, bolster church confidence in other staff members, and highlight how the church has been significant in your own life and family.
4. Remember & Recap:
This is a chance to help your church remember well and enjoy some shared memories. It might also be helpful to recap a little of your own time and the things you were specifically involved in. These memories give story and embody the values that the church holds.
5. Speak Life & Vision:
Transition is a natural time when vision has a tendency to speak loudly into the life of a church. The Apostle Paul, in his farewell to the elders at Ephesus, gives an incredible example of this and is a text worth studying and emulating during your own farewell. (Acts 20:13-38)
6. Briefly Explain What is Next:
Here is your chance to outline your next steps in life and ministry. Your people will want to know and they’ll have questions; give enough information so that they don’t think you’re hiding from them and make sure that they know how to find out more.
7. Close it Off:
But don’t close yourself off. In the time following your announcement and resignation you will find yourself doing a lot more of two things: (1) administration, cleaning up loose ends, and (2) spending time with people. For the sake of your church, be approachable and personable deferring to people rather than your paper work. Some people will need closure and part of your role is to help them through that. If you’re leaving your church in good standing, your primary job is to pastor your people through your own transition.
Anyhow, I hope this was helpful for you and I pray that your own time of transition is a joyful and meaningful time for both you and your church. If you would like to read the letter that I wrote and read to my church, you can do that here. If you’re alone in your transition and would like to talk through issues of finishing well, transitioning your ministries, families issues, or whatever – please do not hesitate to call or email. I’d love to hear about your journey and be a sounding board for you.
Grace and Peace,