10 Tips Toward Productive Comin’ and Goin’ (Well 10 or more)
I've moved 5 times in the last 30 years and am within two months of Spring Meadows being my longest located ministry. As a minister I've always wanted to arrive well and leave even better.
As a minister you want to leave on positive terms even if it is not in the best of circumstances. You also want to start well and make powerful first impressions so that you can be your most effective for the Lord. Here’s about handful of things I’ve found helpful in both.
BEFORE YOU GO:
1. Leave happy - REGARDLESS: I don’t care how they treated you - you be bigger. You have God’s grace in your life, the forgiveness of sins, the hope of heaven. Leave happy. If they really mistreated you make them wish they hadn’t. If you leave with anger or increase drama you will not help the church any and you will only confirm their distaste of you. You know the church is much bigger than you OR than whatever issue is out there that is causing you to leave. You know Christ loves the church and died for it. And you know that God loves you regardless of how "they" have treated you or may feel about you for whatever reason. Leave - HAPPY.
2 .Pray for the VERY best: The church is the Lord’s, His Kingdom, His Work and you want it to increase, to be healthy, for the future to be better. In every setting speak well of His Bride and optimistically of the future. Regardless of the situation - they will meet the week after you leave and someone will preach. They will hire a “next guy” and you want him to accomplish greater things and reach more people than you did. Pray! Pray for good.
3. Say I love you: Let them know your care for them doesn’t end with your “contract.” Just like with people, churches have personalities and some are more lovable than others - but love them out loud. Yes, surely there are people there who are a challenge to love BUT just as surely there are some who you will leave your heart with.
4 .Say thank you: It’s one of our best words. Look for reasons, make a list - start it now - of all the things you are thankful for about the church where you are. In leaving be overly gracious. Thank them for every good thing you can remember. That’s what Paul did, even with the experience he had in Philippi. As I heard my brother say YEARS ago - Remember the best, forget the rest.
5. Evangelize: Note this - regardless of why you leave - whether on good terms or in a less than good parting, unless you leave in a hearse, from the moment you say: “I’l leaving,” every word will be parsed. There will be those who will try to make the elders, leaders or you look bad. You can’t control HOW people hear, but you can control what you say. Why not use this time - whether it’s six weeks or six months to preach sermons on baptism, salvation, evangelism?
6. Learn: I saved this one for last because it may be the most important one for YOU to hear. Learn from this leaving. What could I have done better? What do I need to improve on as I move into my next work? How can I reach more people? Can I communicate more clearly? How would I improve on my relationship with the next elders I work with? If you were mistreated you can either wallow in it or learn from it. And the lesson is not to never trust or never work for, or never put yourself in the situation again - there is more to learn. It may even the the Lord trying to teach you something.
LET’S GET STARTED:
1. Get a Sunday or two between your last Sunday where you are and the first Sunday where you are going: Obviously money could keep that from happening - but if both sides (the one you are leaving and the one you are going to) will take a Sunday or if the one you are going to will give you an extra week going in you will be better poised for the new work. My experience is that preaching your heart one week in leaving and seven days later having to knock a homer with the task of moving in between is next to impossible physically and emotionally. Try to figure out how to live with some margin in this.
2. Post a signup sheet: For good or bad some people will judge you by if you ever had them into your home. This MAY be even more true if you “live in the preacher’s house.” Figure out how to systemically work through the membership having people into your home. Here’s a few starters: One friend did it monthly with members by last night - A-B in January, C-D in February, etc. And the first Sunday night of each month he invited them to the house. Another did it by areas. One guy who was going to be in town before his family (as they were finishing a school year) put a signup sheet out with times he could eat with people - either at their house or a meal out together. Do what it takes to spend some one on one time with everyone you can. You will not regret that at any point.
3. Become a historian: When I moved to Granny White they had all bulletins dating back to 1953 bound. I read them all. That may be a little extreme but find out all you can find out about the history of the congregation. It will serve you well as you learn the what’s and why’s of that community. Ask long-term members what were the most exciting things and the most challenging things experienced there. Learn about past now departed personalities who were loved (or not) and why - what did they bring to the table that made them effective, influential there.
4 .Don’t buy a house: PLEASE don’t move to a new place a buy a house the first year. Unless there is a VERY VERY VERY compelling reason. Give yourself time to learn the area, neighborhoods, etc. Give your family time to make sure you plan on staying a little while. You’ll probably have an idea a year in.
5 .Start fresh! It’s time to do an emotional garage sale. Leave the hurt behind. Don’t mention the previous places you were too often - you’re not there anymore. More forward. A few months ago Melanie and I had a huge yard-sale. We had boxes from our moves FOUR houses ago that we had not unpacked! Stuff we had had movers put in boxes and move 20 years ago that had never been opened! I think we can do without MOST of that stuff (one was Mel’s wedding dress some things can’t be gotten rid of). If you carry some of that stuff with you emotionally you will only be drug down.
6. When you know where you are going send them a letter for their bulletin, or website letting them know you are honored to be coming to work with them. In it tell a tad about you and your family and your dreams. Include your mailing address and email address and invite them to write you and give you some of their own history. You’ll know more folks going in than you ever imagined.
BONUS: Keep a file: This may be a tad strange but I have a permanent file in my computer called “moving” - in it I keep notes of what I plan on doing when I leave the place I am and when I go the the next place. Anytime I see something done well by someone else coming or going I open that file up and toss it in there. It’s been helpful to me my last three moves. Anytime I realize something I should have done and wish I would have done THIS time I throw it in that file to remember the next time.
What ideas have you seen or done that have been helpful. Share below so others can learn from your experiences.