(this is an article I wrote for a student magazine coming out next month, thought it may be helpful to you or your students, too)
I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced a youth worker leaving your church, but it isn’t fun. It is easy to be filled with disappointment, hurt and pain. Sometimes that little emotion of anger creeps in, too. No matter how good of a transition it is, often times there’s pain that comes along for the ride.
Youth pastors are most effective when they stay for a while. The average stay of a youth worker in a church is reported to be about 2 years, which isn’t great for everyone. But unless you have a rock star of faithfulness in your church, you’re going to experience a change in leadership at some point during your teenage years. A key small group leader may move away. A youth pastor may leave for a church in another state. That key person in your ministry who you love and loves you has a job promotion that changes their schedule and pulls them out of your life. Not fun.
Well, I’m leaving my church soon. It hasn’t been an easy decision and while I’m confident in God moving us on … it is heavy on my heart too. I wanted to share a few thoughts about leaving that maybe we both will need to hear right now or in the future:
This is difficult on us, too. Leaving isn’t easy on anyone. It means new schools, new jobs, new friends, new pace of life and more. It means lots of financial changes (sometimes good, sometimes bad). Everything is in upheaval. In short, this changes everything! Just know that everyone is reeling from this decision, so while you need to be aware of your own feelings, try to be as sensitive as you can to others dealing with this as well.
So celebrate well! While not all church departures are under positive circumstances, if they are send them off well! Honor their family, tell stories of their faithfulness and relive some of the great memories and moments of the past as a way to honor them and to honor God’s work.
Another important fact is to remember the future is in God’s hands. In transition it is normal for everyone to panic. Change isn’t easy, it isn’t always peaceful, it is rarely fun. BUT … which our human nature wants to fight or flight … we have to realize that God is in control and he loves our youth group even more than we do! The church is what He loves more than anything on the planet!
He holds the future and … God is faithful. Even in transition and losing people you may love, always remember that God is faithful in all of this. He was there for you and your student ministry before the youth worker was there. He’ll be there long after you’re grown up and gone with teenagers of your own. He is faithful, and there are still many incredible people in your church to help you on your journey to love Jesus more.
So remember and hold on to this: It isn’t easy for any of us, celebrate well and know that God hold us close – our future in His hands and He will be faithful forever!