When You Want To Leave Your Ministry

You’ve been leading a ministry in your local Catholic (Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian…) church for the last three (five, eight, two hundred…) years.  When people think of your ministry, they think of you and “all the good work” you do for the parish and community.  And lately, when you think of your ministry, that’s what comes to mind first—all the work.  You’ve been thinking that maybe it’s time for you to resign your leadership.  So how does a faithful worker in God’s vineyard know when it’s time to leave their ministry work and move on?
 
To begin with, you have to listen to the right voice.  Sometimes you might think you’re hearing the voice of God when in reality
it’s the voice of fatigue or frustration or disappointment that you’re listening to.  Think back to when you began your ministry leadership.  Probably your pastor approached you and asked you to pray about accepting the ministry.  And you did.  I’ll bet you can remember the moment you decided to say “yes.”  You heard God’s call in your heart and it was joyful and exciting.  You started imagining “all the good work” you could do in the ministry.  You knew deep down inside that God wanted you there because you belong to His flock and He shepherds you.  You hear His voice and know His voice.  So if you’re now considering leaving, listen for that voice again.  Really and truly pray about your decision to leave and be patient in waiting for His reply.  He wants us to know Him by spending time with Him.  If you aren’t confident that it’s God’s will that you leave just yet, trust in Him and stay put.
 
There are some things you can do as you wait on the Lord to make His will known to you.  First off, continue doing your best in whatever role you’re in.  You made a promise to your pastor and to God when you accepted this ministry.  Don’t let them down now.  Secondly, make sure you are mentoring others in your ministry so that they are growing in their vision and leadership skills.  A ministry needs good leadership just as a family does.  But don’t forget that the Lord’s work is one we’re called to share.  We are members of one another (Romans 12:4-5), joined together in Christ (Ephesians 4:15-16), made one in Holy Communion (Ephesians 4:4-5).  You’ll feel less burdened if you’ve surrounded yourself with coworkers who help you bear the load.  We’re all in this together. 
 
Next, honestly examine your relationship with Christ.  Do you need to go to confession?  If you have serious sin in your life, your ministry work is sure to feel burdensome, thankless and insincere.  A clean heart can help to create that joy and peace that you knew when you entered into ministry.  Maybe that’s the source of your burnout.  Look at the fruits of your ministry work.  Is it making a difference in people’s lives?  Are you sharing the love of Christ with others?  If good fruits are there, then maybe God needs you where you were planted.  But if you’ve faithfully prayed for God’s guidance and patiently worked and waited for Him to show you His will, you may find that you ARE being led out of ministry.  If that’s true, then resign quickly and gracefully.  Don’t hang around with a bad attitude and a complaining spirit.  And don’t stay because you’re afraid the pastor can’t find someone to replace you.  God is in control and He put your pastor there to lead your parish.  Go graciously and thankfully, being grateful for the opportunity you were given to serve God and His Church.  Let your pastor and the members of your ministry know that you’ll continue to pray for them and support your parish.  Know that the Lord has begun a good work in you that He will carry on to completion in Christ (Phillipians 1:6).  In time, another door of service will open for you and your heart will once again accept His work with joy and thanksgiving.

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