5 Things to Do When You Want to Walk Away
Sometimes I think about just packing it all in, shutting the proverbial and quite literal church doors, and just walking away. Not often, mind you, but every once in a while.
I think if we are honest with ourselves, every person who has been involved in ministry for a few years has felt that way for one reason or another. For some, it might be that they don’t feel like they are making progress, not making a difference. For others, it could be that one volunteer who can never be pleased, who chooses every leadership decision as a battleground. Maybe it’s that you don’t feel respected, or just simply burned out.
Whatever the reason- you aren’t alone.
I began my official ministry career at the age of 20, in student ministry. But my experience around ministry began very early on. My dad was a student pastor and while changing positions to Missions Pastor, has been at the same church for 23 years. In High School I traveled with a creative ministry team writing and performing skits, and learning music. Now, at 27, I feel as though I have seen some of the most beautiful parts of ministry, and unfortunately, some of the worst. I have had days where I can’t picture myself doing anything different. And days where I just don’t know how I can keep going. I have found through trials I have had to go through, and trials I have watched my dad go through, 5 things to do when you just don’t know if you can continue.
I know how simple it sounds. I don’t mean a prayer while your driving that simply says “Lord help me.” If you are considering walking away from what you believe God has called you to- you need to spend serious quality time seeking His advice. After all, if we believe He has a plan for all of us, then He must have foreseen the trials along the way. Pray for comfort, for guidance, for His name to be glorified whatever the outcome.
When I was a senior in high school (I had already surrendered to the ministry), a preacher came to my church and preached one of the worst style messages I could imagine- one of those high pressure “do you really know if you are saved?” type things to up his salvation numbers. I remember going to my dad afterward in tears, telling him I was doubting my salvation. He sat me down and gave me the best advice I have ever received. He said, “Think back over your whole life. Remember how God has used you, how he has worked in you. One moment of doubt can’t change that.”
So think back on your ministerial career- how God has worked through you. This isn’t a magical formula that means you obviously are a Christian or anything, but on a personal level, deep inside you- you know when you go over everything God has done in and through you.
3. What Else Could You Do
A few years back, I found myself in a position where I was let go from a church, and while I won’t go into details, I have since reconciled with the church. I was devastated- it was the worst hurt I can ever remember. I remember I called my dad, who has never let me quit anything in my life. “Dad, I’m done.” There was a pause on the other end of the phone. “Okay,” he answered. “I understand and don’t blame you.” The ride home I began thinking about what I would do with my life now that I have stolen back that life that I had offered to God. For me personally- no other career choice would make me happy. I even considered the childhood dream of taking Bono’s place in U2. After a while, I realized nothing would fill that desire, that calling, that God has put on me.
I was told once that every ministry mentor’s job is to try to convince the person to not join the ministry, because if you can think of something else you could do and find true joy, then ministry isn’t where you needed to be. While I don’t necessarily agree with that 100%, I understand the ideology behind it. Those of us who have been called weren’t called by accident. We didn’t get a letter that was meant for our neighbor down the street. God, in His perfect wisdom, chose us to proclaim His Good News.
4. Take A Step Back
After I was fired, I found myself befriending a worship leader nearby. My family had just moved to town a few months before, so I didn’t know anyone except at my old church. I began attending my friend’s church, which was much bigger, and spending my now open days hanging out with him. He didn’t push me to jump back in, and I told him I would be open to play, but to give me time. Take some time for yourself. Maybe it’s just a few days alone in the woods, or just a Sunday off. Take some time away from work and church to step back.
5. Slowly Step Back In
After a few weeks, my worship leader friend asked me to play rhythm electric for the worship band. I accepted, but with some hesitation. After taking some time, being back in a ministry setting, however small, ignited a fire on my calling. I spent 6 months at this church volunteering as a guitarist and worship leader, even helping to spearhead one of the acoustic services.
I guess what I’m trying to say from all of this- if you feel like you want to walk away from ministry- don’t do it alone. First, ask the One who called you in the first place. Go to your mentors and do deep self evaluation. For some, you might say “this is what I needed, I am ready to step back in.” I rejoice with you!
If you feel like you want to walk away from ministry- don’t do it alone. Ask God and seek your mentors. @jhwilliams Click To Tweet
For others, you might come to a place where you say “I simply can’t go on.” And while that breaks my heart, I believe it would be better for you to step out now, than to keep going knowing that your calling is elsewhere.
Remember- when God has used you in the past, it wasn’t by accident. Don’t walk away from something when God isn’t finished using you. Don’t miss out on those blessings.
Josh is a native of Greenville, SC, where he lives with his wife, Dorothy, and daughter, Juliette. With just about 10 years of some sort of creative ministry experience, he serves at Velocity Church leading the worship, production, and stage design teams. Starting in music, he began to become interested in the technical side of making worship services happen. While serving at Lowcountry Community Church in Bluffton, SC- he began to learn and experiment with stage design and lighting. Since then, he has created many stage designs and consulted to help churches think creatively despite their size or budget. Josh’s goal in his ministry is to point people to Jesus, and believes that all the pieces of a service, from booth to stage and everywhere in between, need to work together to point to a singular goal of Christ.