Should We Let Our Preacher Speak After We Announce He’s Leaving?

some questions to answer the question

I’ve left churches for a variety of reasons. I’m thankful I’ve never left or been asked to leave without an opportunity to speak to the church before my departure.


To me, that would be the ultimate insult and punishment. After I knew I was leaving, I’ve stayed from two weeks to four months. In my last full-time work, Berry’s Chapel in Franklin, Tennessee, we announced my departure three years before the date. The elders said, “As far as we know, in the 105-year history of this church, we’ve never had a planned transition. We’d like to try it and see how it works.” It was a peaceful productive transition. I preached and taught classes as usual.

I’ve had several elderships ask my thoughts on this question.

My Questions to Answer that Question

  • Why would you be hesitant? Most told me they don’t trust their preacher.
  • Why do you not trust him?
  • How long have you not trusted him?
  • What have you done to address that lack of trust?
  • Individual counseling? Matthew 18:15
  • Small group discussions? Matthew 18:16
  • Nothing?
  • What communication have you had with him?
  • Have you asked him what he would like to do?
  • Have you discussed how it would be announced by both sides?
  • What if he cooperates and says a kind good-bye to the church? It would be healthy and helpful.
  • What if he throws a fit, blasts the elders, and is rude? You would have an answer to those who question his request to leave: “Now you know one of the reasons we made the decision we did.”
  • What would you want to do if you were asked to leave your job? How would you feel to be forbidden to say good-bye to your associates? What if your severance pay was dependent on you saying nothing?

Leadership suicide is hurtful to a congregation. Preventing Leadership Suicide

Leadership homicide isn’t an improvement. My observation: there should be strong, unusual, and few circumstances before someone connected to a congregation would be asked to leave without saying good-bye.

What are your thoughts about a preacher speaking after his departure is decided?

(Visited 1,231 times, 2 visits today)
Jerrie Barber
Servant of Jesus, husband to Gail, father to Jerrie Wayne Barber, II and Christi Parsons, grandfather, great-grandfather, Interim Preacher, Shepherd coach, Ventriloquist, barefoot runner, ride a cruiser bicycle

8 Responses to “Should We Let Our Preacher Speak After We Announce He’s Leaving?

  • Rick Kelley
    3 years ago

    It seems to me that there are so many variables that’s its hard to address. I think one of the problems – and you have certainly seen this in your work with interim ministry – is that there is no protocol in place on which preachers and congregations agree pertaining to “hiring” and “resigning” and “firing,” etc. We believe the golden rule, but it’s often too lofty for bitter and hurt people to uphold. It’s also difficult to get preachers and elders to be honest with each other relative to their relationships and expectations. Preachers are often loners and it becomes an us and them mentality. This must be dealt with during the ministry. True friendships must be forged. My first resignation was 9 months in duration. It’s just how it worked out. But by the time I left, a new preacher was in the wings. I knew him, too and worked with him for about a month. Odd? Yes. Did it work? Very well. We transitioned but not by pulling up roots overnight. The eldership should be commended for helping navigate my decision to leave, for making sure people had time to transition, for asking for my help (even when I had asked to be dismissed when visiting preachers came, so i wouldn’t have an opinion; I thought that would be best). It all had degrees of hurt, but it was also all done in love. The church to which I went (and am still) still has their “other” man, he is part time now. Same story here. There was time. The preacher gave the elders a couple years’ notice relative to his change of status. If at all possible, preachers should do whatever they can to give a maximum amount of time and go through hard things to spare the church as much hurt as possible. They should always think church first, and project forward the stages of their career and be honest about their intentions and directions going forward. At least once per year a career and congregational projection conversation should be had with leadership. Just to talk about the contract, the terms, pay structure, benefit changes or not, work program, and future plans for the minister and his family. Is everything still ok with you? Are you all still happy with my work? Are there any financial concerns you have? Do you still see yourself with us in 2-5 years? Would you like me to continue here for the next 3 years? I’m rambling. But your post opens so many of our self-inflicted wounds and erupts so much emotion due to the harm we might avoid if we were more consistent and intentional and honest about our transitions, in a way that always strives put the body first.

    • Jerrie W. Barber
      3 years ago

      Rick,

      Excellent response, example, and suggestions. Our Christian life is more than a few forms. Jesus said people will know we are His disciples by the way we treat (love) each other. Preachers and elders have the opportunity to set an example of how that works — even in difficult times. Preachers and elders are being examples — sometimes better than others.

      This isn’t a time to cut off from each other and get as comfortable as quickly as we can.

      Thank you for sharing your journey and good model for good relationships during times of transition.

      Your story is unusual, but encouraging.

  • Arthur Pigman
    3 years ago

    I have always had the opportunity to speak to the congregation when leaving. It is the best way to part company with the members. We are brethren and there is to be love for one another, not jealousy or hatred. In the early years we received cards or letters from the congregation we left. Now we can get e-mails or texts and keep in touch. These are the people who we have hope of seeing in heaven. So when a preacher leaves a congregation he should have the opportunity to encourage everyone to be faithful.

    • Jerrie W. Barber
      3 years ago

      Arthur,

      That’s what happens when we have a peaceful transition.

      We can have this even though some aspects may be painful.

      Thank you for your insight.

  • Gary C. Hampton
    3 years ago

    My dad, also a gospel preacher, always told me it would be a tragedy to tear down the very work I had spent years building up. I have never been prevented from speaking. I always emphasized the good I saw in the church. I strove to help them be ready to welcome the man coming in after me.

    I was asked by many about one of my departures, particularly how I could be so calm in what they viewed as a bad situation. I told those who spoke to me that I had prayed God would give the elders wisdom in all they did. I then asked if I should tell God I didn’t mean the wisdom to see the work could go forward even more with another man in my place.

    Each move has resulted in opportunities for growth. Teresa and I have met wonderful brothers and sisters everywhere. For that reason, I tell those who ask me what my favorite place is that it is where I am now. I really mean that. God is always good and blesses those who serve him in love.

  • Jason Hart
    3 years ago

    Jerrie, I’ve left congregations, both by my own desire and by being asked to step aside. Neither is easy when preaching after making an announcement. Even in the best of circumstances, thoughts that are shared can be interpreted as critical of the church or individually of members. So much caution needs to be considered. When under the worst of circumstances, aka being asked to step aside, a tremendous amount of self-esteem and confidence in the church is deflated. There is a burden, which I can only describe as an inner-fighting between retribution and preservation–and a compromise between the two won’t help. In the end, I don’t know that there is ever a time where grace and humility must be on their best behavior than in either circumstance, from the preacher and the church.

    • Jerrie W. Barber
      3 years ago

      Jason,

      Thank you for describing the struggle. Our hope is in our pain.

      Going to a funeral of a relative or close friend is painful. Being with the family and sharing grief can be helpful. Sometimes people say hurtful things, unintentionally.

      Generaly, it is better to attend the funeral, embrace the pain, and do our best. People usually don’t remember what we say. They remember we showed up — or didn’t.

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