There is a day every leader has to face, even though no leader necessarily wants to face it.
I have walked through this day with dozens of leaders over the years and it’s never a fun process.
It’s the day when it’s time to no longer be the leader.
Knowing the painful process of getting to this reality, it pains me even to even write it.
Just seeing it in print may sting a little if you know the time has come for you, but you haven’t yet said it aloud.
It could be for a variety of reasons. It still hurts.
It could be retirement. A season has ended. You know it’s time to slow down, but you wonder what this next season will be like.
It could be, and this is even harder, you know you’re no longer the best fit to be the leader. You had a good run, but now the organization has changed and there needs to be someone else to take things to the next level.
It could simply be you know your heart, or God’s plan for you, has changed, and it’s time to move on to something new.
Regardless of the reason, wrestling to this point is a difficult and sometimes grueling decision for every leader.
It’s one I’ve faced in my own career. In our last church plant, I knew God was releasing us to something new. I felt reasonably good about where things were at the time I was leaving, but it didn’t make it easy. I couldn’t see what would happen next. I just knew my season there was ending.
Some leaders handle this well. Some resist it and don’t. Some kick and scream and it has to be forced upon them – and that’s never pretty.
My friend and co-worker Dan Russell, our care and senior adults pastor, got to a point at his church where he sensed they needed someone different to carry them to the next level as a church. It was in his season of wrestling God brought him to my attention. He was in his early 60’s and had plenty of work years ahead of him, but he sensed it was time to step aside.
God rewards obedience. As hard as it must have been for him to come to his realization, his addition to our team proved to be one of the best things to happen in my tenure as pastor. I can’t imagine the first few years in revitalization without him.
I have observed other mega churches where the senior pastor stepped aside – sensing it was time for a change. They seemed to have handed the transition well.
My friends William Vanderbloemen and Warren Bird wrote a great book on pastoral succession called NEXT. It’s a needed resource.
Yet, unfortunately, we all know stories when the exit of a leader didn’t go so well.
The leader stayed too long. They became ineffective. They made the transition more difficult than it had to be. They burned bridges. They broke relationships.
And, I’m convinced it makes things hurt even more.
There’s a day every leader must face. No leader really wants to face it. The day when it’s time to no longer be the leader isn’t an easy reality.
Some handle it well. Some don’t.
Listen, leader, here’s some advance caution for you – before your day approaches.
When you no longer have the passion.
When you just don’t care anymore.
When things are plateaued beyond your ability to move them forward.
When you simply can’t seem to get motivated again.
When you are working for a paycheck rather than a mission.
I’m not saying it’s time. I’m not saying there are not answer or solutions or help for you to stay in the position. I’m not even suggesting any of these are indicators you should leave now.
It would totally be out of line and inappropriate for me to suggest so without knowing your individual story.
I’m simply saying there comes a day, for every leader when it’s time to change seasons. Discerning and determining the day – before the day is determined for us – protects everyone. The organization. The church. And, the leader.