Part 2 of series: Letting Go of a Church
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In my last post I talked about my current struggle to let go of Irvine Presbyterian Church, where I served as pastor for sixteen years until three months ago. By “let go” I don’t mean I have to sever my personal friendships with church members, or that I need to stop caring for the church. But I do need to step completely back from my pastoral relationship with the church so that the congregation and I can grow in apprpropriate ways. Moreover, I need to limit my face-to-face involvement with the church for a season so we can all move on emotionally.
I have lots of help as I seek to do what’s best both for Irvine Pres and for me and my family. There are several things in my life to help me do the right thing. I will note these below. My point in doing so is not only to explain my own situation, but also to offer help to other pastors and churches. I have seen so many relationships between churches and former pastors become destructive, and I’d like very much to help this not occur. So, here are some of the things that help me stay on the right course as a former pastor of Irvine Presbyterian Church.
1. My Conviction that the Church and I Need to Move On
I believe that the sort of transition I’m writing about is important, and that pastors need to let go of churches when they leave. This conviction helps to govern my behavior, especially when my feelings might lead me astray.
2. My Observations of What Happens When a Pastor is Too Involved with a Former Church
These observations strengthen my conviction in #1. I elaborated upon this in my last post. In every situation I’ve been able to watch closely, the involvement of a former pastor in a church soon after the pastor’s departure leads to trouble.
3. My Personal Support System
I have several people in my life who help me do what’s right, including my wife, my close friends, several fellow pastors, and friends who are also leaders at Irvine Presbyterian Church.
4. Physical Distance Between the Church and Me
For most of the past three months, I’ve lived 1300 miles away from Irvine Presbyterian Church. When one lives in Boerne, Texas, there isn’t too much opportunity to drop in. Surely this has helped me let go. (Photo: A view of Boerne in the summer)
I’ve thought about how much more difficult it must be for a pastor who leaves a church, perhaps through retirement, without moving away. In some cases of which I am aware, the pastor’s family continues to be active in the pastor’s former church, understandably so. But this almost inevitably leads to problems, even when the former pastor and family try to be supportive of the new leadership.
I’m grateful that, for the most part, physical distance helps me to let go of my pastoral role at Irvine Pres. Yet we mustn’t forget that technology shrinks distance. If I wanted to meddle, I could easily do so by phone, by e-mail, or even by blog. I could put up a seemingly innocent post on “Why Such-and Such is a Bad Idea,” knowing full well that Such-and-Such was being considered by the leaders of Irvine Pres. Yet this is something I will not do. Wouldn’t be prudent.
5. I Love My New Job and Have Plenty to Do
I mentioned yesterday that I love my new job as Senior Director and Scholar-in-Residence at Laity Lodge. I have wonderful colleagues. The mission of Laity Lodge engages me and excites me. There are big challenges here and big opportunities. And I have more than enough to keep me thoroughly occupied. All of this helps me to let go of Irvine Pres, I’m quite sure. If I was sitting in Texas pining away for my old job, or if I was bored, or if I realized that I had made a mistake in coming here, I expect things would be different. But, thanks be to God, Laity Lodge is a perfect fit for me and I couldn’t be happier. No doubt this helps me let go.
Tomorrow I’ll suggest some other factors that are helping me to let go of Irvine Presbyterian Church.