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.

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