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10 Scenarios which Help Determine if it’s Time to Quit

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

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Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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Join the discussion 25 Comments

  • Delia says:

    Hi Ron,

    This was written some time ago, but is so relevant for me now. I have been in pioneering and serving full time in a ministry position for 12 years. The last 8 years have been tough but the last 3 have been miserable and unbearable – in that I have stagnated for many reasons but the main one being the organisation has become very legalistic and more like an organisation than a church, to put it mildly. I fit into every one of the categories mentioned above. I have been considering resigning for a long time, but only recently felt a release to go. The slightly scary part is I have no backup plan, and there is nothing right now God has shown me, but all I know is if I stay I will continue to die this slow death spiritually. What I still found hard to get my head around is that God let me languish in this position for so long, – only for me to have to leave under these less than ideal circumstances into an unknown future……please shed some light on this or encouragement if you have any.

  • Matt says:

    I know this post was written some time ago but it shines light on a dim place that i’m at right now. i am a youth pastor of about 100 teens an a leader of a young adults group of about 20. I have worked for a secular company for almost 17 years an been a Christian for almost that whole time. i am at a place in my job that I have made it as high as I can on the latter an I am completely miserable. It had became unhealthy to stay but really scary to leave. I always loved my job an then we began to grow as a company an the whole place went from being an enjoyable place to work an, make a good living an support the ministry that I’m called to, to a place where if you aren’t willing to live there an take out the guy next to you then you won’t survive. I have a wife an 3 wonderful kids that are all part of the ministry to try an provide for and I make a confortable living with this company but again I am miserable everyday an dreed going in every morning to the point that I seriously can’t make my self get out of bed in the morning to be on time an the whole time I’m there I can’t wait to leave. I have 4.5 weeks vacation each year an it is July an I’ve used every day already. I have had a offer to go into the landscaping business with my best friend an spiritual mentor, but something still has me scared to leave, I answered almost everything above in the blog with a “yes that fits me. ” I have prayed for some time now, and I know from the past that I usually don’t leave something until it’s almost to late. So I guess with all this I am asking why is your thoughts?

    • Ron Edmondson says:

      Sounds like you need a break. What if you took the landscaping job, get your life back in balance, and then re-enter ministry? It’s just a thought. You will have to decide what’s best for you, but being willing to walk by faith often means you step into the unknown. (Actually, it always means that.) Again, sounds like your burnout and I wonder how effective you are being in each area of your life.

  • Macey Culver says:

    I’m a college student getting ready to make a big transition. I’m thankful for this blog post. It reminded me that sometimes it’s okay to move on.

  • enchanted2meetyou says:

    Sure is. Thanks so much for the prayers! She knows she's not where God wants her but she has no idea where that place may be. Her passion actually lies in Singles ministry. She's very active in the one at her church. =)

  • ronedmondson says:

    Life is too short for some jobs, isn't it? Praying for her now. I was raised by a single mom.

  • enchanted2meetyou says:

    My mom is in this very position. Most of those scenarios apply to her. She's a teacher and it's getting more stressful by the day. She's taught for 16 years but since she got a late start in her career retirement is a way off. She's miserable but she is only staying for the paycheck. (which isn't much mind you). She's a single parent to me and my sister. We're both grown but still have yet to get out on our own. It pains me to see her hurting like this. She can't afford to just quit but something has to give…..

  • Thanks Ron. Your consistent flow of insight and wisdom is such a blessing to me as a young leader!

  • Preston Mitchell says:

    This is excellent. So many pastors are afraid to leave because they may be branded by the former church as a traitor or disloyal. They are miserable but feel trapped and guilty for thinking about leaving. Never let a human being (sr. pastor or others) keep you from where God is leading.

  • sblumer says:

    What's the balance from not just running away and not really solving your own issues or transition in a way that brings health to you and the organization that you're leaving?

    • ronedmondson says:

      Well, as any balance, there's no easy way, but you ask a good question. I think seeking Christ and following the heart is critical here.

  • Kaz says:

    Thank you so much Ron. I recently resigned from a Team Leader position in a secular company that I've been involved with since it started up. Six of the reasons you listed are on my list for leaving, but I have been struggling to put this into words. Now that I can name them, I have no doubt that this will help me to process this.

  • Kevin Dickerson says:

    I left an organization that I was a huge part of about four years ago and I met about 9 out of 10 of the scenarios you listed. Reading this just helped me process that difficult time in my life a lot further.

  • Thanks Ron. Went back and read the new link as well. Raises some questions for sure.

  • Can't go into details here Ron but this is timely. Thanks for wading into these waters.