How to support the person leaving while moving your church forward
What do you do when you lose a crucial member of the church? If you have served in church leadership, you have probably felt this loss. It seems personal for many leaders because the leader wants to see the church grow rather than subtract.
This year has been a tough year for many leaders. Churches have seen the loss of 40 to 50% of their church members due to the COVID-19 crises. For many churches, that means a loss of essential leadership in the church. When a key leader (staff member, teacher, board member or large tither) leaves the church, the leader’s first reaction is to do anything and everything to keep them, even if it is a detriment to the leaders’ ministry. For many churches, instead of seeing it as a loss during this subtraction period, why not let go and let God move. There are four ways that a leader can support the person leaving and help the church progress forward.
1. Celebrate the Person More Than the Position.
For every season in the life of the church, God brings forth the right person at the right time. However, for many churches, the person is so synonymous with the position that they become the same, and when they choose to leave, it seems the position/program will fall apart. The local church leader has an excellent opportunity to separate this outlook by celebrating the person more than the position.
Throughout Scripture, God has raised leaders from the remnants left behind to lead the church. So why can he not do that today? Instead of fretting over a loss, focus on the person who is leaving the position. When my worship leader left abruptly, I was sad that I could not personally celebrate him, but during the next worship service, the church made a point to thank him publicly for his service. Even if a person leaves a position in a fashion that does not honor the church, thank them for serving. Use it as an opportunity to share with those who remain that God is already calling a new leader.
2. Carefully Select the Next Person.
When an opening occurs in the church, the first thing a leader wants to do is fill the opening. Rushing in and filling the position with anyone without praying, seeking counsel from others, and waiting on God, can cause more pain in the long term than the promise of a position filled today. Leadership is not for everyone, but God has the right person for the season the church is moving into if the leader is willing to wait. Carefully selecting the next person is as important as having the next person in the position. Strategically, the leader must evaluate the critical components needed for the situation, the program’s weaknesses, and who is best suited to bring their strengths to bear. The leader should see the opening as an opportunity to build a stronger team for the future and not a gap in the leadership platform.
3. Create Opportunities to Serve.
Some people sit in the church who want to serve but do not know how or where. For some, they are wondering if they are welcomed to help. If asked, they would serve, but sadly far too many are not invited. Create opportunities for people to help. If you have a greeting team that usually has four people, why not add six and rotate them? If you typically have two teachers per classroom for children, why not add a third? By creating opportunities, you make room for a guest to move from guest to member to helper by connecting them with the church by moving them from chair to activity.
When you create opportunities for people to serve, people naturally step up and serve. When my worship leader left, three people stepped up to help lead singing and play an instrument. That was God preparing for the new season. When my Children’s Director stepped down after a great season of service, another dynamic duo stepped in and reshaped the program. That was God moving in ways I did not see coming. Time and time again, I have seen people want to help, but they have to know where to help.
4. Confidently Project Future-Forward Momentum.
Even if the sky is falling by all the church’s losses, be a Tigger rather than an Eeyore. You remember the Disney Winnie the Pooh characters Tigger and Eeyore. They could not be more opposite as Tigger is more energetic, with Eeyore being downcast. Often, the church turns into Eeyore’s and begins to moan about the losses and not seeing the loss as an opportunity for God to do something new. Be a Tigger who projects confidence in the face of adversity. No one wants to follow a downcast leader, but they will follow a leader who projects a future-forward momentum that shares the concern of the loss but is committed to rebuilding the church one position at a time. Each post in the church is more significant than the person who holds the position. The leader should be forward-looking, forward-focused, and forward-driving as they move on from a loss.
Leadership can be challenging through any loss, but God has a plan for the local church and if the leader is willing to surround to God’s plan, great things will come from the loss. The leader must answer the question; am I willing to trust God’s plan for the local church? If the answer is yes, the churches best days are ahead.