I set out to write this week about healthy exits from ministry. I wanted to write about churches partnering with their ministers who were leaving to help them land softly at whatever was next. I wanted to write about positive steps a (former) minister can take to help soften the three-headed monster of relational, vocational, and spiritual loss. I’d prepared notes from my own transition from ministry about milestones that helped me have confidence things were going to be OK. I prepared confessions about actively and passively avoiding my grief, and what it cost me to avoid it.
Instead, after ongoing calls with ministers who’ve left their church (good circumstances or bad) I only have these permissions. Perhaps some of them will resonate with you.
You have permission to:
Treat leaving ministry as psychologically traumatic. It is.
Decline to act as if everything is OK.
Continue to be angry about what “they” did once or often.
Re-experience all of the same emotions when others re-open old wounds.
Take your wounds with you even though you are not yet ready to befriend them.
Feel exhausted from running from your emotions.
Feel uncomfortable or re-traumatized at the idea of stepping inside a church building again.
Stare down the fear that you might never return to a church.
Decline to explain why you’re leaving ministry, church, or even your faith.
Know that your only companions are your tears and your loneliness.
Declare unequivocally that it is not your fault you are leaving.
Confess that your ego is and continues to be a factor in your decision making.
Focus first on your family’s finances before you tend to your soul.
Claim that you are the Beloved, made in God’s Image, and have value outside of a church job.