Cleaning out your office is tough… even when it’s your choice to leave.

[Read: After 12 years at Saddleback … a new chapter!]

No matter how you are leaving (our still very fresh departure was simply time for a new chapter in our youth ministry life and on great terms but still feels so very bittersweet) it is HARD to clean out your space. I suppose that is true of any job or cause you’ve been a part of, but it sure feels so personal since our identity as people gets so caught up in what we do serving as youth workers.

My last day is April 9th at the church – we’re ending with a big celebration weekend that I’m so looking forward for – it is my chance to pass off the youth ministry into hands I trust very much, to celebrate and honor them, to place a strong memory in our youth ministry story’s now past. 

But cleaning out the office? That has been one of the hardest moments so far:

  • I’ve talked with SO many students in that room.
  • Had some tough conversations with parents.
  • Laughed SO hard in there.
  • Come up with some pretty crazy ideas – some have worked and some have bombed.
  • Filled the whiteboard with so many ideas and dreams.

Whew! Here’s what I mearned leaving my 2nd church ever in 20 years of youth ministry:

Go When the Office is Quiet
There’s nothing more awkward when cleaning out your office than walking past other church members or folks on staff. Choose a strategic time when the place is mostly quiet or dark. We chose Monday since our student ministry office is closed that day. It is hard enough without cringe-inducing interactions.

Don’t Do it Alone
I had several offers from good friends who know the emotional challenge of leaving a church. While they were gracious, I decided that this was a moment for my wife and I to take on together. First off, she’s a clean freak and would leave it in much better shape than me, and secondly we’ve shared EVERYTHING in this ministry for so many years – seems fitting we would tackle this challenge together as well.

Leave Something Behind
We had a special time with the whiteboard in my office. I’m really excited about to blog more about it tomorrow. Here’s a little teaser of it:


Say a Prayer
When we were finished and everything was in the car, my wife (aka the spiritual one in our family) suggested we say a prayer in my now former office. We knelt beside the couch in the room, said a prayer for the next youth worker, for the team, the volunteers and for our students. We thanked God for this chapter in our lives. Great closure on a great youth ministry run. Whew.

Have you ever left a ministry before? What else did you feel?