Staff, just like members, come and go in the normal rhythm of church life–20% of Americans move every year and that one factor alone affects all churches and staffs.
This may alarm or even scare other staff or members of your congregation. They may wonder, “What went wrong?” Was it a result of sin or incompetence or conflict? Yet, this is rarely the case. In Saddleback’s history only a very small handful of staff have left for negative reasons. Instead 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.
I like to use the illustration of the American Moon Project–thousands of engineers worked for NASA on different stages of the project. But when their part was finished they moved on.
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 this church. We want to share it.
Over the years we’ve had many staff be trained at Saddleback and then sent out to plant new churches, and to help existing churches–as pastors, staff members of other churches, missionaries, Christian organization workers, consultants to other churches, 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 nearly 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.
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.