“Great is the art of beginning, but greater is the art of ending.”- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Being an only child for the first eight years of my life was lonely. I liked being around people because it reduced the number of hours I was alone. At an early age, I learned to hate goodbyes. Goodbyes are painful. It means the end of something. For churches, ministry teams, and members goodbyes are hard. Ending well is even harder. Too often because people hate loss we don’t say goodbye well. Sometimes we trash the person leaving and want to wipe them from our emotional memory as soon as possible. Maybe we are trying to lessen the loss, but in doing so we are creating a deeper hurt and we are not teaching our members to value the season of ministry we enjoyed. In the last two years, I have had to say farewell to many painful times. I have lost dear brothers and sisters who made my work a true joy. Now I am living with a new normal. The losses still hurt. I am tempted to move on, but, I want to honor what those dear friends did in God’s name. As an organization, the fine line you walk is how do you honor those who served yet move forward into your new normal?
Give yourself time and permission to grieve, but then Celebrate.
“Goodbyes are only for those who love with their eyes. Because for those who love with heart and soul there is no such thing as separation.”- Rumi
Ministry is hard, and people leave ministry for all kinds of fantastic and valid reasons. Things like God is calling them to work for Him in another type of ministry. Don’t take that as a personal attack or see them as abandoning you. We have to be faithful to the call of God on your heart. Sometimes the organization and you have different values and a different vision. It is best to leave and let that new vision gain traction and legs. If you can’t support the new direction it may be time to seek a new place to serve. I often told my members, “Life is too short for you to be in a church that does not nurture your soul.” Whatever led people to desire to move on, allow yourself to grieve the loss but then celebrate the season of ministry you had together.
“Goodbyes make you think. They make you realize what you’ve had, what you’ve lost, and what you’ve taken for granted.”- Ritu Ghatourey
Honoring the Past while looking to the future.
We all face a life full of goodbyes. People move, change careers, relationships end, they retire, and the curtain of their life will come down. In times of great change, it’s hard to find the words to express the strong emotions we feel and/or sum up a period of our life that’s coming to a close.
“To part is the lot of all mankind. The world is a scene of constant leave-taking, and the hands that grasp in cordial greeting today, are doomed ere long to unite for the last time when the quivering lips pronounce the word – Farewell.” R.M. Ballantyne
Enjoy the time you had as you look ahead to what is yet to come. Finish well, end relationships well, keep looking forward.
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