I have recently made a transition out of my children’s ministry position, and in light of my personal experience recently in this area, I thought this blog post might be helpful to those getting ready to make their departure. Make no mistake, no ministry transition is ever easy, but it can be positive. I was truly blessed to experience a positive transition. Although some details and decisions might be outside of your control, there are some ways you can help make a transition positive from your end. All ministry transitions look different, but I want to share four things I did during my most recent transition that made it a positive one.
1. Keep your lead pastor informed.
It can be tempting not to tell your lead pastor you are thinking of departing, fearing that he might let you go. I totally understand this fear. However, I want to encourage you to be upfront and honest with your pastor about what God has put on your heart. My husband and I prayed about whether or not it was our time to go for several months before we had peace about it being the right decision. God opened up the door for me to share my heart with my lead pastor, and he was gracious, positive, and supportive through the whole process.
Don’t stop there! Let your pastor know when you are interviewing or getting close to taking a position. Keeping them in the loop is extremely helpful. My lead pastor even offered to be my first reference and gave me a glowing recommendation. This may not happen for everyone, but you will definitely have more support if you are honest from the beginning.
2. Support your successor.
This will look different for everyone because you don’t always get to meet your successor or even know who it will be. In my case, I was able to train with and work alongside my successor for a couple months. I did my best to give him any and all information he could possibly need to get started. I worked with him on scheduling and lesson planning, answered all his questions, always spoke positively about him to parents, and encouraged all the volunteers to support him. I also made sure he understood that he could give me a call or shoot me an email anytime after I was gone and I would be available.
If you don’t know who your successor is, you can still do a lot to make it a positive transition for them. Make sure they have access to all files, documents, passwords, and vendors needed. Leave the office, classrooms, and storage areas clean and organized, and secure a volunteer team to run the services until they arrive. In general, leave the ministry better than when you came.
3. Appreciate and thank your volunteers.
Even though they aren’t going to be your volunteers for much longer, it is important to love on them and give them the thanks they deserve for serving on your team. If you’re able to, have a meeting with your team to let them know about your transition before they hear it from the pulpit or somewhere else. Plan a special lunch to appreciate them and answer all their questions. This gives them a special time to say goodbye and have closure without the rest of the church and children around. I also had a small gift of appreciation for each of them to let them know how much they meant to me.
4. Finish strong.
Let’s face it, we are all human beings. The natural instinct at the end is to get lazy and let things slide. It’s easy to get into the mentality of it not being your problem anymore, or thinking “the next person can deal with this”. We know that’s not the right attitude to have. Give your ministry your best until the very last day. Leave your ministry spaces clean and organized, have a solid volunteer team in place, give your all in your final services or obligations, and I guarantee you will feel at peace when you leave knowing you finished strong.
Those are four of the main things I did to have a positive transition out of my last ministry position. What are some things that have helped you have a smooth and positive transition on your way out?