No matter how effective we are in leading a ministry, that season is almost always closer to ending than we realize. Whether it’s someone else’s decision or a new opportunity presents itself to you, how we leave a ministry position might very well have a greater impact on those we serve than what we did in our tenure.
This is a hard truth to face in youth ministry, an area that typically has a high turnover rate. It’s difficult because youth ministers may feel taken for granted by their leaders and/or congregation. It can be trying because invariably there are personal feelings involved, especially if the ending is not of the youth minister’s choosing. Even if a new call amounts to a “promotion” and a better personal situation, our insecurities can color how we hear the words of others, and what we say can certainly influence how others see themselves, you or the church.
Ending well in any profession is one of the most important things you can do, but when your area of leadership oversees teens in one of the most formative stages in life, there is another layer of significance. So, what does ending well mean?
For starters ending well should be directly connected to why we started in the first place. I have incredible respect for youth workers and have met countless of them over almost two decades, all different styles, ages and backgrounds. Almost always there is a passion and call to help students become captivated by God’s grace and truth found in Christ.
Ending well means leaving your position and church in a way that points to the hope you have for your students and families to connect to God through the work of their local church regardless of how we might feel about the circumstances.
But it’s our circumstances that can really test our resolve, isn’t it? As a long-time student ministry leader, I know that seasons end for a variety of reasons and all of those endings have their challenges. Some of those difficulties can be self-inflicted by the youth worker while other obstacles had to do with conflict. Still others flow from becoming aware your ministry environment was not healthy and you couldn’t be part of the solution without harming yourself or family.
Many times, youth leaders “graduate” to a new calling and are so ready to move on, they leave without the proper closure. Regardless of the circumstance and the personal feelings that come with it, the ending cannot be about the youth leader, but most consider first those they minister to and the body of Christ overall.
Youth worker, remember who and whose you are in your time of transition. As tempting as it might be to explain or defend yourself, those who love and follow you don’t need all the baggage or details of what led you to leave (even if it’s good). What our students and families do need to see are Christ followers who point to God’s goodness during brokenness and disappointment.
Leaving well means celebrating and elevating volunteers and students. Leaving well means you decrease in a way that God (and the church’s credibility) increases. Leaving may very well be the most impactful thing you do in your ministry. Do it well.