Saying Goodbye and Releasing Well
It was seven years ago in a small office at LCBC that I first met my friend Jason Mitchell. The meeting was to talk about starting a local student ministry network called Project Renovation. In the early days it was Jason, myself, Andy Gordley and Todd Henly who made up the Project Renovation team. Over the years we have seen many changes, hundreds of youth workers reached and still more equipped for the work of youth ministry. When you start something with great friends and trusted partners, it is always both exciting and difficult to watch when they move onto the next thing God has given them.
At another meeting this past Fall, over a couple cups of coffee at Starbucks, Jason shared his heart and how God had been leading him to transition from JCrew to leading LCBC’s new BranchCreek Campus. It came as no surprise. For years we have dreamt and shared personal visions of our futures, and as I walked with Jason, I could see God preparing him for this new thing.
And still, when one of your key leaders and friend shares with you that they are transitioning into another position, excitement can be mixed with the feeling of loss. For any of you who have led a ministry team, I know these are emotions you too have felt. So we laughed, cried a little, and thanked God for what He was doing.
Reflecting back on that transition, I’m reminded of three key principles to saying goodbye and releasing well.
3 Keys to Releasing Well
Celebrate… Take time to celebrate the person and their respective ministry with the students and your leadership team. Honoring your leaders through celebrating their investment communicates deep value and worth to the person as well as your teens. It is also equally important to celebrate their new ministry position. A leader’s value does not diminish when they’re no longer serving in your ministry. Commit to supporting them as they move forward, be present in prayer, and spur them on whenever possible.
Release… When we release someone well, we empower them. The leader transitioning knows they have a family who supports them, who will miss them, but who has also given their full blessing to go on the journey. Not releasing our leaders well can communicate a lack of faith on our part. Releasing well sets the leader free to go and give their best time, talents, strengths and gifts to the new organization. Free them from having to hold old reigns as they move forward.
Grieve… Lastly, take time to grieve. You have experienced a loss! Be honest with yourself and those around you. Take your time in filling the position and don’t just rush to plug the hole. Realize that you are never going to have another person just like your previous leader. That’s okay, you’re not supposed to. Part of what God is doing when one person moves on is creating a new chapter for both them and you. Be open to listening how God may want you to move your ministry in a different direction.
On A Personal Note
To my friend Jason, I am deeply thankful for our time together these past seven years. I know that this certainly isn’t the end, but still I want to convey to you my deep gratitude for your friendship and personal care for my soul. Over those same years, you extended care and training to countless youth workers in our area as part of Project Renovation. For this I am deeply thankful and count our time together as a gift. Please know that we are excited for you and are one hundred percent behind you at LCBC BranchCreek. I am deeply thankful for you, and believe the best days for LCBC and Project Renovation are still in front of each of us.
Your Brother, Rick
About the writer: Rick Rhoads
Rick is the Director of the Student Ministry Majors at Lancaster Bible College. He has served as an Assistant Professor in Student Ministry at LBC for the past 7 years. Over the past 18 years, he has served in various Student Ministry roles at Lebanon Valley YFC, LCBC, Calvary Bible Church, and Riverbend Community Church. Rick, his wife Naomi, and their two children Grace and Eli live East Petersburg, PA.