5 Ways: Explain Staff Often Leave For Positive Reasons

By Rick Warren

Front of the Holy Bible. On white backgroundHow do you explain that staff often leave for positive reasons?

Staff, just like members of your congregation, come and go in the normal rhythm of church life. It’s estimated that 20% of Americans move every year, so that one factor alone affects all churches and staffs.

Yet, when someone on your staff leaves, members of your staff and even members of your congregation may wonder, “What went wrong? Was it a result of sin or incompetence or conflict?”

Yet, this is rarely the case.

In over thirty years at Saddleback, only a small handful of staff have left for negative reasons. Most of the time, we rejoice as staff members step out in faith to follow God’s will into new areas.

Why Staff Leave:

1. A Stage of Life — Sometimes staff leave because of a change in their life or family: having a baby, kids entering school, spouse changing jobs or being transferred, having to care for an aged parent, getting married, needing greater income, going back to school, or retirement. These are just a few of hundreds of valid stage-of-life reasons.

2. A Stirring of God — Sometimes staff leave simply because they sense God wants them to do something else! They feel a “stirring” or restlessness in their spirit, which often indicates that God has other plans in mind for them. Some people feel the pull of God to go to seminary full-time or get more education to prepare for future ministry.

Sometimes the stirring is circumstantial – the job they were hired to do is finished, or the job has changed due to the growth of the church, or the church has restructured and is moving in a new direction. God often has people “serve for a season” in order to benefit his church at that particular moment and also to teach and develop them.

The reality is that almost no one stays with the same job for his or her entire lifetime. In fact, one of the primary ways God teaches us to trust him is through job changes. If we never had to change, we’d never have to live by faith.

3. A Season of Healing — Sometimes staff members leave in order to “take a break” and focus on some physical, or emotional, or relational health issues. Sometimes it is a personal health issue and sometimes it is to care for a family member. Either way, we applaud people for making a wise and healthy decision. Work should never be at the expense of your health.

4. A Sense of Greater Calling — I have said repeatedly, “You don’t judge the strength of a church on its seating capacity but by its sending capacity.” As a Purpose-Driven church our goal is to “Bring them in, Build them up, Train them, and Send them out!”

This is true for both staff and members. It has never been our goal to selfishly cling to all the talent God raises up in at Saddleback Church. We want to share it, just as I’m sure you want to share the talent of those God raises up in your church.

Over the years we’ve had many staff trained at Saddleback but then sent out to plant new churches, or to help existing churches–as pastors, staff members, missionaries, Christian organization workers, seminary teachers, and even as volunteers in smaller churches who could not afford staff.

My dad used to tell me, “Your first ministry is never your greatest ministry. It is always preparation for what God will eventually do through you.” After over 30 years in ministry, I have found this principle to always be true. If someone is at their first church, don’t be surprised if God moves them eventually (I served in FOUR other ministries before planting Saddleback).

This is why Saddleback sends some our favorite staff members to help other churches. They’re still great friends, but God had more in store for them. Our staff is a family. But even members of a family eventually grow up and move on!

5. And Sometimes It’s Private — On rare occasions, people leave staff for PRIVATE reasons. In those cases, it is my commitment to protect the privacy of those individuals. So sometimes we don’t publicize the reason the staff member has chosen to leave.

Regardless of the reason people leave, your response should always be the same: gratitude for the time God allowed them to serve, along with prayers and best wishes that God will continue to use them in the future.

Rick Warren

Rick Warren

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America's largest and most influential churches. Rick is author of the New York Times bestseller The Purpose Driven Life. His book, The Purpose Driven Church, was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community for pastors.