I hereby resign as a…of this congregation — effective immediately! There may be a nod of the head, his wife rises, and they exit the back door. Or a gasp when even his wife didn’t know it was coming. I’ve observed or heard of it happening from elders, deacons, and preachers. Without discussion or planning, an angry or discouraged leader expresses his frustration by leaving without warning.
There’s damage to those left behind after a suicide.
- Shock. (What’s going on in this person’s life and/or with our relationship?)
- Grief. (How will we make it without this person’s leadership? I don’t know if we can go on without him.)
- Guilt. (I wonder if he did that because of something I said or did?)
- Anger. (How could he do that? He took the easy way out. He left in the middle of problems he helped create.)
- Deterioration of trust in the remaining leaders. (If he did this when I didn’t see it coming, who will be next?)
When you know you have a terminal illness, it is kind, loving, and helpful to discuss your departure with those close to you. Observe Jesus:
From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day (Matthew 16:21, NKJV).
Jesus repeated this statement over and over and over. Even though there was a lack of faith and desertion of His disciples, Jesus didn’t disappear back to heaven saying, “Now they’ll miss me when I’m gone.”
In contrast, He continued to prepare His followers for His departure and provide for their strength and encouragement after He left.
I recommend that leaders have a “no suicide contract.” Each leader commits to a three-month notification of his departure to permit and encourage —
- Grief at his leaving.
- Reassignment of his responsibilities.
- Time for a reconciliation of any “old business” left in the relationship.
Exceptions for giving notice would be a fatal heart attack or dying in a head-on collision. It’s not loving to those left behind to exit without notification. Even in a secular job an honorable employee gives a two-week notice.
In one congregation where I served for more than a decade, we had a weekend workshop to discuss my departure. We talked about why I was leaving, when to make the announcement, and ways we could make a smooth transition.
God’s people deserve better than a frustrated leader relieving his stress by shocking the sheep.
The probability of that happening is lessened by mature Christian leaders discussing what would be best for the church before pressure mounts that might prompt this action.I recommend that leaders have a “no suicide contract. Click To Tweet