Youth Ministry Essentials: The PERSONAL Side Of Ministry Transitions
You've written the letter, and its been accepted by your church leadership. Now you find yourself standing before the congregation on a Sunday morning about to make your "announcement." With your spouse (and maybe children) by your side, a written statement in your hand, and a slight case of nerves, you announce to everyone that you are leaving the youth ministry at [your church name] because God is calling you to something or somewhere else. As youth workers and youth pastors, most of us have faced the difficult task of leaving a ministry. It never gets any easier.
The easy part of the transition is the logistics. And there seems to be a good bit written about that. But after searching, browsing, and searching some more, I've discovered there are very few articles or blog posts that discuss the personal side of the transition. What about this personal side? What about the people, habits, friends, and familiar surroundings you leave behind? Too often, it seems this aspect of transitioning is overlooked. But it's too important not to address. Here are some thoughts on how my family's recent transition, from a church in Pennsylvania to one in Indiana, affected us. I'd love to hear your thoughts on how a transition affected you personally.
Our House Was Not Immediately Our Home
Yes, it was our furniture and our stuff, but for the past several years we had grown accustomed to our home in Pennsylvania. In Indiana everything was new. Trying to find the simplest of things in the kitchen was slightly frustrating. And why was it frustrating? Simple: Because it's not what I was used to. There were so many little things about our new living situation that added up. It took a while before it felt like home. And for a while I felt out of sorts. These feelings are normal. You may have experienced them recently, yourself. But if we ignore them, they can bring more stress into our lives, something we don't need more of in the midst of a transition. Knowing that these feelings are normal, and basically inevitable, will help you deal with them.
Something Is Missing. Oh Yeah . . . My Atheist Neighbor
In Pennsylvania my next-door neighbor was an atheist. There were three things he loved: beer, talking about religion, and fishing. Most of the time all three were taking place at the same time. I had been in my new home for a while, when I realized there was a familiar sound I hadn't heard: the sound of Kevin's garage door opening so he could spend some time hanging in his man cave grillin' and chillin'. I'd often hear the door and take the opportunity to go say hello. I'd listen to his latest stories about fishing, and his theories on the government and religion. Though he didn't put his faith and trust in Jesus (yet), I never stopped telling him about Christ. I didn't realize how much I'd miss those man-cave moments, talking freely with an atheist (who became a friend) about Christ. It points to a bigger issue: when we transition, we cut ties with so many of our relationships. It might be the toughest part of moving. Sure, we will make new ones. And sure we can keep up with some of them through social networks. But, it's not the same. The loss of relationships is one of the biggest personal losses when it comes to transitions.
My Wife Loves Me, But I'm Driving Her Crazy
When we transitioned from Pennsylvania to Indiana, my wife and I had a lot more time to spend with each other at first. (She was looking for a new job and I had a sort of mini-sabbatical before I started my new position.) The time together was great! But we came to realize that spending this much time together caused some tension. It had nothing to do with our love for one another. It was simply that we were simply not used to this new routine. I found that we both needed more alone-time than we might have anticipated. We soon adjusted to the rhythm of our new lives. But, again, the tension we sometimes faced was a result of an interruption of our old routines. The things you do that make up your daily life may not seem that important, or even that defining. Until they aren't there anymore! Realizing this may help you deal with transitions more effectively.
Transition in ministry IS personal. It affects more than way more than just your ministry life. But for some reason this is the side we read about the most. As I continue with this transition, I'm learning there needs to be a balance in how we are caring for youth workers. Yes, providing resources and support as we transition into a new church is important, but never more important than our personal and family life. If our personal life is not being cared for, managed and supported our effectiveness in the ministry will suffer. And 1 Timothy 3:5 is our reminder; "For if a man cannot manage his own household, how can he take care of God's church?"