When and How Will the Next Preacher Leave?

How long do you plan to stay? How do you plan to leave?

What’s something you need to discuss with your prospective preacher before you sign the job description and contract? I think there needs to be a clear understanding: how long do you plan to stay and how do you plan to leave?

This Needs To Be Discussed For The Benefit Of The Church
How Long Do You Plan to Stay?

Growing churches have preachers that stay a long time. Preachers staying a long time doesn’t guarantee church growth. But I’ve never seen or heard of a growing church changing preachers every two to five years.

If a preacher’s making this move as a stepping stone to a larger congregation or if he’s taking this opportunity to hold him until a church opens up in a more desirable location, it may not be wise to choose him as your next preacher.

How Do You Plan to Leave?

A preacher can destroy his previous ministry and damage the congregation if he leaves with a bad attitude.

He can make the transition easy when he cooperates with his departure, regardless of the reason. It’s easy to think elders are wise when they want us to come and decide they lose their wisdom when they ask us to leave.

This Needs to Be Discussed for the Benefit of the Preacher
What Would it Take for You to Ask Me to Leave and How Will You Treat My Family and Me Should That Happen?

Some churches have a plan to change preachers on a regular basis. I talked with one preacher who’d been at a congregation for four and a half years. The church was growing. The congregation seemed to be happy. The preacher and his family were enjoying their work. The elders informed him it was time for him to be looking for another congregation.

“What’s wrong,” the surprised preacher asked.

“Nothing’s wrong,” the elders answered. “We have a policy we change preachers every five years. You’ve been here four and a half years, and we want to give you plenty of time to find another church.”

That would’ve been a good discussion four years and seven months ago!

“We have a policy we change preachers every five years. You’ve been here four and a half years, and we want to give you plenty of time to find another church.” Click To Tweet

The best time to plan a funeral is before a terminal illness. It’s easier to select caskets, clothes, a preacher for the funeral, pallbearers, songs, and other special requests when everyone is well and happy.

The best time to discuss how dismissal might be conducted is when elders think they’re selecting the best preacher in the brotherhood and the preacher thinks he’s found the perfect church. There’s no conflict then. Emotions are pleasant. Everyone’s happy. Let’s talk about a possible head-on collision no one saw coming and decide how we’ll treat each other if the tragedy occurs.

Elders Preparation for This Discussion

The best way for elders to prepare for this discussion, it to have the same understanding about their tenure and departure. One of the most destructive things that can happen in a church is for there to be a “leadership suicide.”

“I hereby resign as a…of this congregation—effective immediately!” There may be a nod of the head, his wife rises, and they exit the back door. Or a gasp when even his wife didn’t know it was coming. I’ve observed or heard of it happening from elders, deacons, and preachers. Without discussion or planning, an angry or discouraged leader expresses his frustration by leaving without warning.

When elders have an understanding in place, they introduce this discussion by telling the prospective preacher, “This is the way we operate. We have a ‘no-suicide’ agreement in our eldership and with our deacons. We believe smooth transitions are important in any group and especially in the Lord’s church. Let’s discuss your leaving when we’re excited about your coming. Our commitment to you: we’ll follow Jesus’ teaching to treat you as we want others to treat us.” To read more about this: Preventing Leadership Suicide: we never saw it coming!

It would be good to continue to have this discussion during the annual review. Providing financial incentives and checking to be sure the preacher is preparing for eventual leaving by choice, retirement, disability, or death is a kindness shown by caring shepherds.

It’s better to have hard conversations when they’re easy! Click To Tweet

What suggestions do you have for good partings?

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One thought on “When and How Will the Next Preacher Leave?

  1. Just read this — my elders did none of this…
    I left my first work in Franklin county as my own choice…
    I always intended to do this at Dyer also — which God blessed me to do…and one of the my reasons was the health of the congregation. I truly wish I could have removed my self early but could not
    I think we should plan our stay as well as to when we need to leave…
    One last thing I made the announcement I was leaving… also told the church why and the first reason was them– they need some one new… since then I have stated from the pulpit things like what to look for or pray for, or how compliment a minster… — this is of course lynn in dyer , Tn
    if you hear of some one — tell them…to contact me interested