How do you know when it’s time to leave an organization?
I have never been described as a quitter, but there comes a time for all of us when we have to leave a position. In a previous post I wrote “Leave Before You Have To” – and I think that’s good advice for some people. I have known so many people who should have left before they did. Sometimes it’s more damaging to stay than to quit a leadership position.
I am asked frequently to help someone think through the decision of whether to stay or to leave their current position. Obviously, if God calls you to stay somewhere, you should stay. Period. No questions asked. If God calls you to it — even when you’re miserable — you stay.
But many times, in my experience, we stay for the wrong reasons. We stay for a false sense of loyalty. We stay because we are afraid. We stay because we don’t know what we would do if we left. Sadly, sometimes, we stay for a paycheck.
The following are some times to consider leaving. I think these may apply if you are in a church or business setting.
This decision should never been entered lightly. I believe in loyalty. But when careful consideration and prayer has been given, there are some common indications it’s time to move on to something else.
Here are 10 scenarios that may indicate it’s time to leave:
When God has freed you from your commitment – I believe God’s call is ultimately to the person of Christ, not to a place, but there are times God has us in a specific place for a specific season. You may only be a leader for a season. If you sense God has released you to pursue other positions, it may soon be time to leave.
When your work is finished – It could be that you’ve accomplished what you were sent to accomplish. I felt this way in our last church. Shortly after we arrived I felt God had me there to position the church to grow another 100 years. By the time my current position became available I felt we had accomplished that assignment.
But it could also be that you are no longer motivated for the work, because you’ve led as far as you can lead. I once wrote about leaders needing a challenge to stay motivated. If you have become too comfortable, it may be a time God is preparing you for a change – a new challenge. (Read more of that thought HERE.)
When your heart has left the organization or it’s vision – Sometimes you need to reenergize your heart. If God hasn’t released you from the position, for example, then you have to find a way to make it work. In many cases, however, you are freed to move elsewhere. You shouldn’t harm the organization by staying when you no longer have a heart for the mission. If you’ve quit having fun, don’t keep making life miserable for everyone else.
When you can’t support the leadership – You need to know where the power rests in the organization. It’s nearly impossible to change the organization working against an ingrained power structure. Ask yourself, “If it’s always going to be like this here, would I be content staying?”
When your family or personal life is suffering, because of the demands of the organization – If you have to neglect one of them, your career or your family, in twenty years, which do you hope it will have been?
When your mind starts working against the mission of the organization – Honestly I haven’t seen this one many times, but I have seen it. This is clearly when you’ve stayed too long and grown bitter. If you would rather see the place fail than succeed; it could clearly be time to go.
When your relationship with co-workers or leadership is damaged beyond repair – You should try to work out these differences, you certainly should offer grace and forgiveness, but when it is obvious a professional relationship cannot be mended, it may be time to move forward with your life.
If the organization or senior leadership is venturing into immoral or unethical practices – Don’t get caught in the next news scandal.
When you find yourself physically ill if work crosses your mind – On the weekend (or when you are off work), if the emotional stress is greater than you can handle, you may need to protect your health over your career.
When you don’t have the energy to pull your own weight – For whatever reason, whether it’s because you’ve given up, you are bored, or just can’t keep up the pace, if you are dragging down productivity and you don’t have the incentive to improve, perhaps it’s time for a change in your workplace.
Please understand, God may leave you in the miserable environment for a season – or even years. He certainly did for some of the men and women in Bible history. I also believe that the times described above are not always to be viewed as negative experiences. Sometimes God uses the difficult experiences of life to draw us to Him and to open our eyes to the next opportunity He has for us. I think both have been true in my experience. There were times God was preparing me through hard seasons and others times He was using them to pave the way (and make it clearer for me ) to move towards something else.
I also believe, however, that there are times a false sense of loyalty, co-dependency or irrational fear keeps us from moving forward even though God is not holding us to the position. In my opinion, protecting our heart is more important than protecting a professional position. I wouldn’t make a decision solely on just one of these scenarios, but if numerous of them apply then I would seriously question if it is time to go.
Consider this list as it compares to your situation, then ask God to confirm in your heart:
- If you are free to leave.
- If now is the time.
What would you add to my list?
You might also read: Discerning a Change in Ministry Assignment