This past fall I stepped away from the church I had pastored for over 35 years. The lessons I’ve learned are too numerous to count, yet there is one question all leaders will have to face at some point: When is it time to step down?
It isn’t an easy question to ask, let alone answer. Simply asking the question demands we acknowledge a point of termination and an acknowledgement of our human limitations.
Here are five steps that helped me process the decision:
- I had to be honest with myself: Are you struggling to identify the vision for the next chapter? How’s your energy level? A lot of years in the saddle can give you wisdom and perspective, but it can also wear you down. Acknowledging your current reality is never easy, but certainly necessary.
- I hired a coach: Who do you have in your life that can ask the hard questions? Who can help you process the next step? It should be someone who doesn’t have any skin in the game so they can be honest and objective. A good coach is an excellent option.
- I got my spouse involved in the discussion: The decision to step down was not mine alone; it significantly impacted the one who had been by my side for all those years. I knew it would ultimately be my call. However, tapping into her insight was extremely beneficial on more than one level. We had started it together; we needed to end it together.
- I spent quality time talking and writing: It has been said that clarity comes through the tongue and the pen. Talking things through with my wife and coach were very helpful. However, spending time writing was also of great value, forcing me to think through the process at a deeper and more strategic level.
- I reorganized my weeks so I could spend intentional time alone with God: Leaders are tellers. That’s what we are trained to do and what life and ministry demands of us. Getting alone with God requires that we do more listening—not an easy task, but valuable and necessary none the less. Knowing that your next step will also be his next step for you can provide a place of peace and confidence.
Stepping down from a long-term ministry role doesn’t mean you are dead. I suspect you have much to give and there is still much to be done. The possibilities of the future are numerous.
What are your thoughts on when it’s time to step down? You can post them below. I look forward to the chat.