How To Know When It Is Time To Leave


It’s one of the toughest decisions you will ever have to make:  Leaving a church you have been serving as a staff member.  It’s a decision that should NEVER be made cavalierly and never without much prayer and consideration.

I have seen many staff members leave too early and short circuit what God was wanting to do in them during a process of seasoning and learning.  But, I have also seen many staff members stay longer in a situation than they should have.  By doing so, they ended up hurting the church and their family in the process.

Certainly, you should leave if you have a DIRECT command from God that it is time for you to move on. Perhaps He has another place where He wants to use you.  Perhaps He has someone else who needs to fill your current position in order to fulfill His plan for that church.  If God says, “Leave,” then leave.  Outside of a direct command from God, here are a few ways you can know it might be time to resign the position you are serving in…

1)  When you no longer personally respect your pastor or team.

Whether it is your fault or theirs, if you have lost respect and cannot gain it back – you will do more harm than good by staying on the team.

2) When you can’t support and agree with them publicly

We will always have disagreements with our pastor or other staff.  It’s impossible to agree on everything.  But, we should always disagree in private!  When in a public setting, you MUST show agreement and solidarity.  If you are unable to do so despite your best prayer and effort, then you need to leave before you cause damage to the body of Christ.

3)  When you or your spouse become cynical or critical in your spirit

If you get to the point where you are cynical in your spirit and can’t seem to clear it out, then you should leave.  To continue to follow someone you don’t trust is damaging to them and to you.

4)  When you are no longer challenged to grow

When you get to the point where you have grown as far as you can at the current location, it might be time to consider moving on.

5)  When you don’t like being around your pastor or team

This doesn’t mean one person or another gets on your nerves one day.  However, if you find yourself consistently avoiding relational time with your staff or pastor, that is unhealthy.  If prayer and loving confrontation don’t solve it, then it is better to leave than poison the entire community.

6)  When you think you can do a better job than your pastor

Some staff pastors have the thought, “If I was in charge of this church, I would do a much better job than my pastor is doing.”  I have found that when a staff member has this feeling, MOST of the time it is the staff member’s fault – not the pastor’s.  However, if this feeling persists despite your best efforts to squelch it, then you can mark it down – you have lost all respect for your pastor.  No matter what the reason, you owe it to your pastor to resign and allow him to hire someone who respects him.

I am not one who advocates leaving on a whim.  I can’t stand the fact that the studies show the average length of stay for a church staff member is 18-24 months.  However, there are times that “sticking it out” can do more harm than good.  No matter what, never make the decision without bathing it in prayer and seeking wisdom from spiritual authority.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Share your thoughts in the comment section.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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26 thoughts on “How To Know When It Is Time To Leave

  1. I have often thought that I have stayed too long at the church where I am the Children’s Pastor. It has been a tough road at times and not that I wanted to run away, but kept thinking that it might be time for me to go. At points in my ministry I was begging God to let me go, but I never got an answer. Then one day I again was selfishly begging God to let me go, when He spoke to me and said ok go if you want. I immediately realized that I could go but it was going to be without His blessing. I have since stopped begging and started working harder on my attitude and what He wants from me right where I am.
    It is amazing that since that has happened, more children are coming and things are getting better.

  2. Thankful for this post. I am in the process of leaving a church right now. Number 4 – when you are no longer challenged to grow is what I have been experiencing. It has been a very difficult road to walk seeing how this is my first time leaving a ministry and moving forward to another ministry I believe God has lead me to. I have often asked myself months prior to this decision “when do I know it’s time to leave?” so this post is very encouraging to me now that I am in the process of leaving. So glad I can learn from so many others with these blogs and modern day technology! Thanks for posting!! 🙂

  3. I think that this advice applies to anyone in any ministry position, not just to pastors or leadership. Even as a core volunteer in a ministry, all of this is true. I recently made a tough decision to leave a ministry in which I was genuinely invested and where my heart still lives. I sought God as I made the decision, and sought counsel from former pastors, after which I came to the conclusion that it was best for me to step away- not only for myself and my family, but for the sake of the ministry itself, for many of the reasons that you outlined in this post. Your post today has served as another form of confirmation for me that I made the right decision, no matter how much I may miss it. Thank you.

  4. Wow to see this post today! Almost exactly a year ago our children’s ministry leader left our church for almost every reason you listed in your post. I served under her so it left me devistaded! Seeking Gods will myself and another team member stepped up to run the class. A year later looking back I see how by the bush being trimmed it forced the rest of the branches to grow, which we did and in a big way. Our children’s class is growing everyday and in everyday way (especially after the ARISE conference this past weekend) now the crazy part is yesterday our Pastor has announced he may be leaving excepting a pastoring job in another state. I do know it’s in Gods hands wether he has stayed too long or leaving to soon!

  5. As I began reading your blog it seemed like you were writing about me. About 10 years ago I was on staff at a church and was dealing with the first 5 items you pointed out. I made the mistake of staying on longer than I should have. I dreaded pulling into the church parking lot even. I learned a lot from that experience, but I hope many others will take your advice and not have to personally go through the situation themselves.

  6. Your Blog came across my cell phone as returned home from telling our Pastor my husband and I wr’e leaving. Where we are going we’re not sure but we felt God was telling us to go.
    Three times before we have had this happen. We had very vibrant, active, ministries, that that those we mentored stepped up and took over. We saw our jobs dry-up so too speak. But we came to recognize it was God’s hand leading us to another job He had for us and more blessings.
    Looking back there were no hard feelings just sadness as we sad good-bye. We’ve come to recognize this and become excited about the new blessings and plans He has for us. We have a love for kids, teens and teens and we’re sure God will continue to use us to help bring them to Him for years to come.

  7. Brian,
    Very good advice! I have had the good fortune to minister in the same church, in my first Kids Pastor position, for the past seventeen years. Have there been any times when I wondered if it was time to leave? Absolutely. But as you say, I would have short circuited what God was wanting to do in me during a process of seasoning and learning. I have raised my children in this church and now have started on my grandchildren. I now get to see parents who were once kids in our Kids Church now bringing their kids to church. It makes for some interesting déjà vu experiences. One of my greatest blessings today is to see kids who were once in Kids Church now serving in ministry beside me. I have been blessed to work with a great pastor/leader and to contribute and support the dream and vision God has given him.

  8. This is a great post….and so true. I wish I had read it years ago, it would have saved me a couple years of stress and many friendships.
    I had worked almost 10 years on staff as CP and didn’t agree with many of the things that were done or said “behind the closed doors” but I would stand behind and not speak against it to others.
    I finally realized after the city gave us the reins to organize one of the largest events they held each year. I viewed it as an amazing outreach opportunity. It wasn’t until it was over I was told by the SP that he wanted it to make the church money, not cost us money….it was at that moment I realized I didn’t have the same vision as he did and I lost what respect I had left for him. Unfortunately, I was too afraid to step out and into the next place God had in store for us, and I stayed 2 years longer…and when I did leave, it became very ugly and many relationships were destroyed in the process.
    Hopefully people who are in the position I wasand in the other

    • Oops!
      Anyway, I hope people who see themselves in this blog post can be courageous and leave…despite any feelings or fears they may have.

  9. My husband and I have only been the children’s directors at our church for a little over 3 months now. And, I am starting to have some doubts about the administration of the church, and am starting to see why they have had difficulty keeping someone in charge. The children’s ministry is growing under our leadership, but it has come with a whole lot of hard work and stress. It just seems like we are fighting an uphill battle. It seems every time we turn around the administration is making decisions regarding the kids ministry and we are not involved in those decisions. We also get informed about changes at the last minute. Also, a lot of the volunteers just don’t take their positions seriously and it is very difficult to get them to follow through. I know that God has put us in this position, but I am having thoughts that maybe this is not a battle we can win and we have taken on a ministry that is impossible to run, or maybe we just aren’t in the right church. I will be doing lots of praying for direction. I’m just worried it’s too soon to move on, but is it? Has anyone else experienced this issue? And, how did you handle it?

    • Hey Tammy! My husband and I moved to this church after the pastor in our old church resigned due to a year of struggles with the board. We did not want to leave but we knew it was time. When we first got here we were extremely excited for a new community to reach. Months in we discovered not only had they lied to us about a lot in the interview process but our pastor and admin were micromanagers and the excellence they desired turned into unrealistic perfection. We are the only ones who actually tAke our day off… Off. Still we didn’t feel comfortable leaving after a short time. We have been here a year and we have prayed/fasted so much. A month ago God spoke very clearly to us and confirmed it was time to go and the things we needed to learn, though difficult, were important for us as youth pastors who want to be lead pastors one day. Here we are now knowing we are ready and the more we pray the more confirmation arises … And the more situations happen that are plain unethical. We don’t have another job lined up and I’m beginning to associate with every # on that list. It’s time to go but because we don’t know where yet and the last guy that told our pastor he was looking for another church got fired on the spot.. We are too afraid to just leave. Interested to hear how your situation turned ou and get some insight from a stranger 🙂

  10. Great post, Brian. I would totally agree with your points. It is always a decision that has trickle down effects so I’d like to add a thought. Whenever there is a staff change at a church, it affects many people so keep in mind to make your exit as positive as possible. Not to say you must exaggerate how “wonderful” everything was but careful to speak and act as to not harm the church. And remember to finish strong! Once we have decided to leave, it could be tempting to cruise to your last day but we must not burn any bridges and do our best until the last moment. I’ll never forget when the children’s pastor that I had been working closely with for four years decided to move on, I stepped in as the interim CP. He had done such an amazing job of building a team that when he left, we missed him as a friend but the department barely skipped a beat. I could elaborate more but I think we all understand finishing strong is very Biblical. Thanks for your wisdom and your mentoring spirit. You are such a blessing to many and always inspire me to do better!

  11. Just happened to come across this at a very important time…this Sunday I will be resigning from my position as the Children’s Pastor at my church. We are not leaving the church, we are not unhappy with the Pastor or other staff members, just worn out..tired. I’ve been the C.P. for 11 years and for the past 6 months or so, I’ve been feeling like it’s time. We have very few children (our congregation runs mainly age 60+) and I keep thinking if someone younger, with more energy and time, could pull in a younger crowd. At this point, I feel as if I have let God down and not done as much as I could have done.

  12. Great post. Totally agree. I would say #1 & #2 are some main reasons why I left my last church, except sort of flip-flopped. It was more of the realization that my pastor didn’t support ME or have MY back. Once that happens, I can’t work at that church anymore.

  13. I’d like to add that leaving may be the right move if you are certain you are no longer influential over your students and their families. This may occur for a lot of reasons, but if you’re sure they are no longer listening to you, God may be providing a new ministry opportunity.

  14. These are great pieces of wisdom!

    I’m curious to what your thoughts are when a spouse of a staff member isn’t attending the church because they are hurt or cynical or don’t agree with the pastor. But the staff member is still on board and loves it.

  15. Hi Brian, Good points. I had a hard time leaving my church of 40 years where I was involved in all the praise teams, women’s ministry, you name it. But I felt God’s calling and left. The church I am at now, I not only am involved. I am in a leader position in both the Mount Zion House for Women which is a Christian drug and alcohol rehab, but I also am the Assistant Director for our Children’s Ministry working directly under our Children’s Pastor. I love what God has done for me and now I have 2 church families. It wasn’t an easy decision, but it was God’s and well worth it! Thank you for all you do. Loved the book, I blew it!

  16. I am in a similar situation and am in prayer and have been for over a year. This article is just one in a long line of signals God is giving me that I may need to move on. I have talked to my Pastor about some concerns about the direction of the congregation and even our personal relationship. We have smoothed those issues out but I find it difficult to respect him and others at his level in our organization because they all seem to stagnant in their place toward advancing the church. Not trying to cause a problem. I’ve been there for 7 years and worked with him but not without struggles. Trying to ask God how to do this peacefully as I don’t seem to fit and don’t see a future for my ministry there which has little to do with him personally.