Saying Goodbye to a Youth Ministry

I wrote earlier this year about leaving a youth ministry in the best possible way, and it dealt primarily with ensuring the Youth Ministry you left behind was able to move on and not experience a bitter transition to a new Youth Pastor.

And though I touched on it in that post, saying Goodbye to a Youth Ministry can be extremely hard for a Youth Pastor (and his family) to do. Whether it is you who is resigning from a church or you were fired from ministry, Change is coming in your household. It’s not just the relationships with the students you will be cutting off, but also with the volunteers, the parents, and the town, really. Going through that time of transition can be extremely taxing on the soul of a Youth Pastor and his wife and kids. Despite your reasons for leaving, and despite your feelings towards the church for leaving, hurt is guaranteed to play a factor in the next few weeks/months/years of your life as you say Good bye.

So how can we heal this hurt if we are going through it, and how can we prevent it if we are preparing?

You may need to cut-off some of your old Youth Group relationships for a while.

If your dealing with some scars that are causing you to leave, be it that you were fired or just emotionally drained from a taxing church culture, you may find it best to remove yourself completely from the situation, temporarily or permanently. Let those around you know ahead of time so they might not get as offended, but do some purging of your Facebook friends. This may be completely unnecessary in your specific situation, but I know in my last transition and the transitions of several friends, there was some major hurt going on. We had no idea where we were going, and on top of that, had had some major breeches of trust with those close to us. When we arrived to our temporary destination away from where we left, my wife and I felt it best for us to go through and delete nearly everyone from where we just came. It was a completely drastic measure, but at the time, was absolutely necessary for us to begin healing. This may be you, it may not. It may seem petty to some in the past, but your responsibility in the immediacy of the transition is for your family’s feelings, not those you no longer minister to (and remember, you should be no longer be ministering to them once you leave).

Before you say goodbye to your Youth Ministry, celebrate what has come in your time.

Most likely, you were able to do at least a few things right in your old position. If you were a complete failure, things probably ended really poorly and your not planning on going back into Youth Ministry, and thus wouldn’t be reading this post. Get with some students or a few volunteers and look back on all the good that did come. It will help you keep your head up if hurting and get energized for new opportunities if your lucky enough to be leaving well.

Make the end of your Ministry Count.

 Jim Elliot has a great quote that simply says the above, “Wherever you are, be all there.” You may have put in a two weeks notice and plan to be out of town in 15 days. Your still there, and your students will still need you. For those next 15 days, love on them. This is your chance to leave your legacy with the group. Will you be the jerk that bolted on them when things got rough or the amazing Youth Pastor they were so sad to see go. As I mentioned earlier, saying goodbye causes hurt, no matter the circumstances. Your students will feel it just as strongly as you do, and you need to lean into that. Be realistic about your relationship moving forward, be cordial and kingdom minded about the church you are leaving, and leave the lasting impression that no matter why you are leaving, you truly loved them. Don’t discredit the entirety of your time in that ministry by blowing it the last few weeks.

2 Comments

  1. I like your point about making the end count. Last time I resigned, i kind of peaced out of there and focused on next steps. Looking back, wish I would have done more to go out on a better note with the students, feel my actions kind of just communicated I had no commitment to them.
  2. I like your point about making the end count. Last time I resigned, i kind of peaced out of there and focused on next steps. Looking back, wish I would have done more to go out on a better note with the students, feel my actions kind of just communicated I had no commitment to them.

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