Lately, the idea of “ending well” has been on my mind.
I am in the stages of ending one pastoral appointment and transitioning into another. I want to end my time here well and, thus, get started on the right foot at my next church.
But, what does it mean to “end well?” It is not something I have a lot of experience in. To be honest, when I was a reporter I was not the best at leaving. My main concern was myself and my own advancement, so I wasn’t really worried about how I finished a job. I was more interested in what was next.
That is not the case now. Part of it is maturity, but another part is the realization that ministry does not exist within a single pastorate. Pastors pick up the torch left from previous pastors and carry forward the mission of serving Christ in that specific context. At the same time, pastors leave a torch for the next pastor so that person can faithfully serve the kingdom.
So, what does this look like? I think it will look different for every pastor and church, but in conversations I’ve had with others these are some of the things I have taken for myself.
Continue Until The Last Day: One of the key things to end well is to keep serving until the last moment. Many pastors in transition have the tendency, I believe, of ignoring their current church and completely focus on their next one. It is understandable, but easily avoidable. While you want to make preparations and plans for what is to come, a pastor cannot ignore the people they are called to serve in the moment. They deserve our complete dedication until we depart.
Say Goodbye to Everyone in Meaningful Ways: Every person in our pastoral care deserves to hear us say goodbye and to allow them to say goodbye to us. These can be private conversations or public expressions. To say goodbye allows for relationships to end in a healthy way, so that new relationships can be created with the next pastor.
Leave Good Information for the Next Pastor: One of the best ways to end well is to leave great information for the new pastor about the church. The information should include meetings, things they need to know about the community, expectations, and other vital information. Having this information will help a new pastor get acquainted to the new church and the community. This should be a private correspondence left for or given to the new pastor.
Make Sure You Actually Leave: One of the most important parts of “ending well” takes place after we have left a church. It is up to the outgoing pastor to make sure they do not come back to their former church for a period of time. We do not give the next pastor an opportunity to effectively lead if we are in constant community with our former church or make appearances within a community. There must be a distance between ourselves and our former church, so that ministry can fully develop at both our new place at our former place.