Reach out for Support and Resources
Guidance from the Office of Church Life and Health
Support for Departing Pastor from the Office of Formation and Leadership Development
Best Practices for Healthy Leaving
- Whether the leaving of the pastor is done under good circumstances or bad, the ministry of that pastor should be celebrated.
- Using rituals in worship for releasing one another (pastor and congregation) is very healing and honors the spiritual richness of transition. (see sample resources below)
- Setting boundaries between the pastor who is leaving and the congregation is essential to ultimate health. (see sample resources below)
- The pastor should make very clear opportunities for congregants to say good- bye through one on one appointments as well as in groups.
- The board should attend to some important things.
a. Contact OCLH and begin the partnership right away (see contact details above)
b. Review with the pastor any specific contractual things that need to be clarified and honored (i.e. vacation time, health benefits, etc.)
c. Decide whether a gift will be given to the pastor and how the congregation can be involved in that process.
d. Work with the pastor and OCLH to fill the pulpit for a month or two beyond the pastor’s departure.
e. Provide a clear list of things the pastor needs to attend to before departure (i.e. turning in keys, providing passwords, cleaning out office, leaving all mailing lists, etc.)
- Once a pastor resigns, the LONGEST time interval before leaving should be 2 months. Long enough is important, too long is damaging.
- If the leaving is complicated, full of conflict, the result of letting the pastor go rather than a resignation, or a vote of the congregation to remove the pastor has occurred, then a plan should be put together right away to move through this process in a way that will be healthy for the congregation. (see resources below)
Additional Reading List for Healthy Leaving
Washburn, Phillip S. Good Moves: Seven Questions for Clergy to Ask upon Leaving and Entering Positions of Leadership (A Systems Perspective). Strategic Book Publishing, 2012.
See also the OFLD On Demand Video featuring Philip Washburn.
Sample Covenants to Assist Congregations and Pastors in Setting Healthy Boundaries
It is important for pastors and congregations to have clear boundaries and expectations as the pastoral relationship ends. Following are two samples that you may find useful as the pastor and board create a mutual agreement that can be shared with the broader congregation.Letter Of Agreement at the time of Separation - When Pastor Stays in the Area
Letter Of Agreement at the Time of Separation - When Pastor Leaves the Area
Liturgies of Releasing a Pastor
As mentioned above, using rituals in worship for releasing one another (pastor and congregation) is very healing and honors the spiritual richness of transition. Below are some sample rites that can be adapted for your context.Rite of Release - Sample 1
Rite of Release - Sample 2
Seeking Intervention in Situations of Crisis
When an assessment indicates that some crisis intervention is necessary immediately following a pastoral transition, a plan will be put together based on that particular situation/context. The sample plan provided below is one church and one context and may not reflect what other intervention plans will look like.