Ministers are more surprised than anyone else to discover that when the time comes to leave a congregation they do not know how to say good-bye. Many pastors look upon those final weeks as a meaningless marking of time. Some pastors have even destroyed the good work that they have done in previous years by inappropriate behavior as they have left a community. Congregations often are of little help. They, too, find it hard to say farewell.

Since the pastor takes the initiative in leaving, he should also take the initiative in making the last weeks as effective as possible. He ought to take a fresh look at his role and ask himself how his leaving at this time will affect each member of his congregation. Some of them will feel rejected by his departure. Others will be threatened, for they have depended upon him as a primary source of love and worth. He has been involved in important aspects of his parishioners’ lives. That will be interrupted. Some people will feel guilty and vaguely responsible for his leaving.

The minister should realize that in some instances the congregation as a whole may feel rejected and will reject him in return. Even if the congregation feels that the pastor is going on to bigger and better fields, what kind of reward is that for its loyalty? It implies that the congregation is less important than the next one that the pastor will serve. To lose a pastor is to receive a negative judgment. It is difficult for the congregation not to be critical of its departing pastor.

The pastor can reassure the congregation of its importance and uniqueness. He should avoid comparisons and should help his parishioners do the same. This will enable the pastor to talk about the mission of that congregation, and about ...

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