A Good GoodBye – A Laity Perspective

At the farewell gathering for one pastor and his family, a number of important things were said which provide a thought provoking outline for the consideration of issues related to disengagement. The bold typed lines are the quotes from the Personnel Committee Chairperson (United Church of Canada).

You will be missed!

To acknowledge loss and grief is not only helpful, but therapeutic. Frequently the changing of pastors marks important passages in the lives of people in the congregation. There have been significant time shared and special events in the lives of some people, which were deepened by the ministry of the person leaving. Sometimes, members of the pastor’s family have played vital roles in the life of a congregation and loss of these valued relationships will be felt deeply. They will need to be articulated.

There will always be a place for you here, but it will not be the same place.

There may be times when our future pastors invite you to share their ministry with then! When they invite you, we will be most delighted to welcome you.

While pastors are not encouraged to return officially to churches they have served, it is important to acknowledge that they are welcome to maintain the important connections of friendship and concern that have marked their stay The distinction can be drawn between the appropriateness of returning as a friend one who has shared a journey, rather than as a participant in the ministerial life of the congregation. A new pastor will be arriving, in the pastoral role. This statement above was pointed, but yet welcoming.

We expect to grow and change because of the roots you have planted and confidence we have gained while you were here.

It is both comforting and freeing for a pastor to be told that things will change and flourish after he or she leaves. From the congregational point of view it helps people to interpret the changes that will come, but at the same time discourages interference from the former pastor in the future development of the church.

At the time of disengagement some important steps can be taken to anticipate development and change, and remove the potential for future tensions:

Because of your ministry with us, we know the value of a pastor’s presence… and so we will be receiving a new pastor, just as you will be following someone else.

This is another reminder that an ending has taken place.

Since the Church of Jesus Christ is bigger than an one local expression if it, you can rest assured that the good work you do elsewhere will be appreciated by us, and good work we do will strengthen and reassure you.

It is tempting at the time of disengagement, to focus on the work and ministry of a single person in a single place…. The connectionalism within the church is made possible when friends, pastors, and associates move away from one another, taking with them the assurance that “we are one in the spirit” and “united in Christ.”

Image Credit: Some rights reserved by woodleywonderworks

Adapted By Gail Grossman from Pastoral Transitions, by Bud Phillips.