After 15 years in our congregation, my senior pastor is leaving to take a new call.
Since my senior pastor announced his departure, I’ve become acutely aware of the role that I, as a staff member, have to play in this transition. Just as there are many things that I can do to support my congregation during this season of change, I’m also quickly learning there are some things that should be avoided. Here are seven things you shouldn’t do during seasons of change:
1. Don’t share what’s not yours to say. During times of transition, questions surface. As a staff member, you’re sometimes privy to information that others don’t have. Don’t repeat something unless you know for sure it’s okay to do so. Respect and honor things that are explicitly or implicitly told to you in confidence. Let your leadership and staff know you can be trusted to maintain confidentiality.
2. Don’t share too much. As anyone who works for the church knows, the church’s rumor mills are robust. Once you say something, others will hear it. It’s then impossible to take it back. When a colleague leaves, you will feel a variety of emotions: Heartbreak, disappointment, relief, grief, sadness, bitterness, and resentment just to name a few. Sometimes you may even feel them all at once. It’s important for you to find someone outside your congregation to process these emotions with so that you can safely help those in your congregation process theirs, without inserting your own into the mix.
3. Don’t talk trash about the person leaving. Just because they’re on their way out doesn’t mean it’s time to let loose with every gripe or criticism you’ve ever had with them. Instead of tearing the departing person down, commit to making your last few weeks together affirming. Celebrate that person’s ministry – past, present, and future.