Passing the baton

Do you want the next guy to succeed in your position?

I wrestled with this while sitting in my office after handing in my resignation. After three years as the student and family pastor at our church, it was time to leave.

My wife and I had spent the previous year wrestling with God about moving on in ministry. Needless to say, He won; we could no longer ignore God’s push off the ledge.

At first, I wanted to ignore this nagging question. This was my ministry; I started it, and I didn’t want it to succeed without me. However, God quickly reminded me that it wasn’t my ministry, but His. I may have started things, but He grew it, and it was His desire to move me out into something else and to move someone else into my position. He was asking for my obedience and a Christlike attitude, not selfish ego.

Therefore, regardless of the awkwardness of my question, I needed to put myself into the shoes of my replacement. Did I want them to feel overwhelmed and freak out, or did I want to give them space to breathe?

I determined that I wanted the person entering my position to find it better than when I started. I wanted them to succeed from the very beginning, knowing that in the end it would benefit the entire student ministry. If the new person had some important things already in place, there would be more time devoted to connecting with students and families. There would also be more time for the person and their family to settle into their new home and community. All-around success would be achieved.

Here are the things I put into place before I left. I give them as suggestions to you, if ever your time to leave a ministry arrives. After this experience, I truly believe that part of our job as youth workers is to leave our ministries well so that the entire ministry succeeds without us.

  • I wrote out a description of each drawer and file folder (“This is where you will find ...”).
  • I made out a sample calendar of events from October through August. I reserved the church van and put things on the church calendar. I did this for three reasons: Planning an event calendar is overwhelming enough (especially being new to the area/state); all events were merely suggestions of what the students liked, and the sample calendar provided a budget.
  • I prepared a sample budget based on the events calendar. Like planning events for the year, preparing a budget can be a nightmare at times. Even if the person didn’t do the suggested events, there would still be a certain amount allotted to them for whatever they wanted to accomplish that month.
  • I supplied them with tons of resources. Besides leaving books and resources, I copied everything in my youth ministry folder—lessons, games, forms, schedules, contact info, graphics, videos, etc., and burned them onto a DVD. I wrote out the numbers of other youth pastors and parachurch leaders in the area.
  • I removed the clutter from my office and the youth area, and I made sure everything was in working order. I even left them my coffee pot and a mug!

This past experience has left me with a firm belief that part of our job as youth workers is to leave our ministries well so that the entire ministry succeeds without us. We should fully support our replacements, no matter how our departure comes about, because in the end, it’s not about our ministry but God’s ministry.

It’s not about us but about the students we’ve grown to love and serve. It’s about setting a higher example to be imitated.

I wanted to pass my replacement the baton in a Christlike manner, because after all, we’re on the same team.

What would be your suggestions for ending a ministry well?

Shawn Harrison is a pastor, author, speaker, ministry consultant and the founding director of Six:11 Ministries. A bit obsessed with Jesus, Shawn lives with his wife and three kids in Ohio, where he helps pastor Greenville Alliance Church.

For the original article, visit

Ministry Today Subscription Special - Subscribe to Ministry Today magazine today and get 12 issues (2 full years) plus Amplified Leadership, a free leadership book for only $24.

Order Life in the Spirit to actively grow your ministry in the power of the Holy Spirit. Your congregation will stay saturated in God's Word, learn to hear His voice, understand their purpose and calling and move into an active role in your ministry.

Your Turn

Comment Guidelines
  • Jentezen Franklin encourages church leaders to encourage their flocks to vote their values.

    Why We Must Count the Cost—and Vote

    There is a propaganda war that is raging in this country, and it is full of manipulation, lies, ...

  • Graveyard

    An Autopsy of a Deceased Pastor

    There are eight common patterns to look for.

  • Why did you choose the church you attend?

    7 Key Reasons People Choose a Church

    The real issue is not the intrigue of this research; it is what you and your church will do about ...

  • Many of these issues are self-inflicted.

    10 Poisons That Will Kill Any Church

    Here is why the churches that die from them do so by their own hand.

  • The Key to True Power

    The Key to True Power

    Jesus overturned every worldly idea about power when He introduced the concept of servant leadership.

  • Have you ever had a cringe moment during your church announcements?

    The 7 Deadly Sins of Church Announcements

    Sometimes they just miss the mark, albeit unintentionally.

  • Some of these reasons for leaving the church are simply not plausible.

    7 Reasons People Leave Their Church During Crisis Times

    Some of the excuses are pretty extreme and, quite frankly, lazy.

  • Do yourself and her a favor. Take the target off your pastor's wife's back.

    Why Pastors' Wives Have a Target on Their Back

    Here are three instances of what we are doing to the wives of God's servants sent to ...

  • The heart of a leader is more important than any other characteristic.

    5 Qualities to Seek in the Heart of a Leader

    The hope here is that you would reflect on your own leadership and consider your own heart as a ...

Use Desktop Layout
Ministry Today Magazine — Serving and empowering church leaders