It begins with a wiggle in your gut. You’re not sure why but something’s different. You’ve been on staff for awhile and the climate around your job isn’t as “sunny skies” as it used to be. You walk into a room, people stop talking, and you get the sense you were the topic of discussion. Church people you call friends have trouble looking you in the eye. Their smile is a little “less” than it used to be. Uh-oh.

If this rings true, chances are that your church leadership IS talking about you and your job may be in trouble. Why? You know why. Whether it’s justified or not, you have an inkling. Whether it’s out-of-your-control circumstances, like budget cuts, or something that connects to you, like theological differences or poor job performance, you know. No matter what ridiculous thing blew up from a tiny bump into a dramatic mountain, the reality is that the question has been raised: should you remain in your staffing role or not? What do you do?

Don’t Pretend the Problem Doesn’t Exist:

In the naiveté of my younger years, I thought if I didn’t pay the current unrest any attention, it would eventually resolve itself. After all, God said he would make it all work together for good and I would be worrying for nothing. This was dumb, people.

At this step of recognizing the blowing winds of change, it’s time to dust off the old resume and start making contingency plans. Decide what your career list of “want to do and don’t want to do” steps are so you’re ready. If things go south, you’re several steps ahead of looking for work.

Be Proactive, Not Reactive:

What my newbie “ignoring the problem” modus operandi did was give away any lead time to 1) fix things before they’d gone irreparably too far and 2) cut down my lead time to prepare for the coming inevitable.

A more grownup approach would have been to accept the reality and go through proper channels, starting with asking my boss, “Is there a problem I need to know about and if so, what can I do to make things better?” I know, I know – “What if the boss IS the problem?” You still have to honor and obey the system; if not, it will only hurt you more whichever way things go.

Don’t Burn the Ships Before Sailing Away:

The ugly truth is that when we feel like we’re not wanted anymore, whether our fault or not, we get hurt and we often want others to hurt as well. Consciously or sub-consciously, the choices we make while we’re going through our time of potential departure can leave damaging effects. We keep someone we shouldn’t have out of an email thread, we don’t church calendar a detail we know we should just because it will be after we leave, we let passive-aggressive remarks sneak into our social media. This doesn’t help anyone. We’re hurt, the youth are hurt, the church is hurt, the Church is hurt.

Nothing about being on the edge of unwillingly leaving a ministry is easy. How you leave determines how much or little it will hurt. It really is up to you.

-STEPHANIE CARO

Stephanie Caro has been involved in ministry to children, youth, and adults in the local church (both large and small) since…a long time ago. Her humorous, straightforward style keeps her busy presenting and coaching at conferences, training events, camps, mission trips, retreats, churches, etc. She is now Senior Consultant for Ministry Architects, which allows her to help churches assess, vision, and formulate their ministry game plan. Her books, Thriving Youth Ministry in Smaller Churches and 99 Thoughts for the Smaller Church Youth Worker, were published by Group/Simply Youth Ministry. Her latest book, Smaller Church Youth Ministry: No Staff, No Money, No Problem, was published by United Methodist Publishing House in December of 2016. Her next book, Ten Solutions (to 10 Common Mistakes in Smaller Churches), comes out in 2018. Stephanie is a contributing author to several ministry resources like YouthWorker Journal and Group Magazine. Check out Stephanie’s blogs at youthministry.com, youthspecialties.com, Princeton Theological Seminary, and others. Stephanie and her husband, Steve, live in Houston, TX. Their 7 children are all grown!

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