Transitioning: When to Tell the Pastor

leavingSo you’re about to leave your church or are searching for a new position.  If you’re like me, the next question that pops into your head is this:  when do I tell my pastor?

Let me share with you a story.

A few years ago in my job search, I made my pastor fully aware of what was going on.  He not only knew that I was looking, but he served as a reference on my resume.  I kept him in the loop on everything, including with whom and when I was interviewing.  We had a very close relationship.

However, it put him in a precarious situation.  While I told him I was looking, I did not inform the rest of the congregation.  Eventually, a few of the leaders began to get curious.  On my candidate weekend, the chairman of the deacons cornered my pastor and asked him, point-blank, if I was candidating that weekend.  My pastor, not wanting to lie, felt he had no choice but to tell him the truth.

Later that weekend, at the deacons meeting, the chairman told the rest of the deacons.  They told their wives.  By the next Sunday, while I told everyone I had gone on vacation (and I had used vacation days for the trip), everyone knew I had been doing a candidate weekend.

In the end, I looked like the liar.  What’s worse, I didn’t get the job.  It became evident during candidate weekend (to them and to me) that I just wasn’t the right fit for their staff or their congregation.  For the next six months I continued on in a job that everyone knew I was trying to leave.  Awkward doesn’t quite cover it.

I used to always tell me pastor I was looking.  I felt it was a common and professional courtesy.  After all, while he’s my boss, he’s also my pastor.  However, after the story you read above, I changed the way I operate.

After that incident, I no longer told my pastor job updates.  In fact, I removed his name from my resume.  When I began my latest job search, I only told my pastor AFTER I got the job.  Why?  I didn’t want him in an awkward situation.  I didn’t want him to have to be dishonest for me.

To be honest, this question doesn’t have an easy cut and dry answer.  If you’re looking for another youth position, a smart church or pastor will call your current pastor, even if they’re not on your resume.  So it’s a good idea to tell him if you’re getting down to being the candidate.  If you’re seeking a different position from your current one, you can probably get away with a post-job acceptance notification.

Either way, be sure he knows before anybody else.  That, to me, is a professional courtesy.  It will also help your transition so he can have key people and meetings lined up.

If you’ve got some ideas, I’d love to hear them.  Please feel free to respond below.

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Wayne Yeager is the pastor at Glasford Baptist Church in the small town of Glasford, Il. As a 12-year veteran of ministry, his experience comes from small, rural churches and congregations. Wayne is married to Sara and they have two children. Wayne attends Liberty Seminary, studying for a Masters of Divinity in Christian Counseling. You can follow Wayne's blog at http://wyeager.blogspot.com.

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