Late in 2010 I resigned as Children’s Pastor from the church where I served for fifteen years. It concluded thirty years of being involved in some form of children’s work, mostly in the local church. In my previous church, one of only two where I have been on staff, I was an elder and Children’s Ministry Director for four years, although I had participated in children’s ministry for thirteen years in that setting. So, twenty-eight years have been spent in the local church working with children and their parents, and prior to that, two summers were devoted to working with children in a professional daycare setting when I was in high school. Mixed in with that, my experience has allowed me opportunity to pursue some education, provide professional consultations to other church leaders, conduct local and regional training seminars, and interact with like-minded practitioners on the web. Thirty years, all told.
So, now I am in a season of reflecting on what has transpired, and what might lay ahead for me. It occurred to me to think through the benefits of hindsight. What have I learned during all that time? How have I grown? What pitfalls have I learned to avoid? What has been most helpful during my tenures at the two churches? Given what I am learning, how might these principles help lay the groundwork for my next steps?
I am under no illusion that all of this can be written succinctly in one blog post. Therefore, I propose to make it an occasional series with a view toward providing the readers touch points to reflect on their own ministry journeys. You might be a volunteer teacher or leader who stays at home full-time throughout the week to raise your kids. Or perhaps you are part-time leader with full-time employment outside of the church. You might even be a full-time church leader. Whatever the case, this series is designed to help you think through your own situation by peering momentarily into my story.
Allow me to prime the pump for the series by briefly comparing my departure from my most recent church assignment (we will call it #2) with my departure from the previous one (#1). When I left #1, it was in August of 1995. Personal home computers had just begun to gain traction and the internet was alive and active, but many homes were not yet able to opt in. I got my first computer in the fall of 1994 but was not on the internet until the summer of 1999. Furthermore, internet social networking did not yet exist. I gave the church five month’s notice and, as near as I could tell, they began to realize it was actually going to happen close at the one month mark to my departure. When I left, it was the last time I would ever see most of the people, since I moved over one hundred miles away.
When I left #2, it was the end of November, 2010. Facebook now dominates the lifestyle of many parishioners. Add to this the fact that I did not physically move my residence or find a different job. Nothing has changed other than the fact I no longer attend that church due to my resignation. It is here that hindsight informed my decisions, yet still leaves me with unanswered questions. I gave a one month notice this time, because I learned that a longer notice simply was not helpful. I have honored the denomination’s requirement that I not contact anyone in the church pastorally, although it raises questions as to how to navigate this principle in a socially networked world, given Facebook and other modalities. So, in one sense hindsight was helpful. It caused me to see that a briefer time between resignation and actual departure would be better.
Yet, in another sense I tread upon new territory. The rules of the denomination seem archaic in light of a world which has grown smaller due to the technological interconnectedness of people. So, I try to find a reasonable happy medium. I do not intentionally contact people from my former church with a view toward influencing them pastorally. Yet, I choose not to be rude, either, by ignoring their contacts via Facebook or email. More can be said about this, but the point is that I hope my experience in this and other issues which I explore in hindsight will somehow be helpful to my readers in future posts.