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Books for those in ministry organizations who desire to take their leadership, teams, governance, and ministry effectiveness to the next level.

24 Aug '11

When does one know their job is done?

Posted by T.J. Addington in Healthy leaders, transitions
Nothing lasts forever but often we treat our job as if it does. In the business world this often comes with a rude awakening when someone else tells us that our job is finished. In the ministry world that is less true but all of us need to be aware that we serve for a season in the role we are in and there comes a time when transition is healthy. The question is, how do we know when that is?

The board/supervisor check: This is where we start getting signals from our board or supervisor that we should perhaps think about transition. Take those signals seriously and engage your supervisor or board in dialogue around them. It is not unusual for boards or supervisors to try to communicate in a gentle way that it is time, but for people not to hear. Even if one disagrees with the sentiment, the issue has been raised and needs to be addressed so that it is not "the elephant in the room." The bottom line is that it is hard to serve without the support of one's supervisor or board so entering into conversation rather than ignoring it is critical.

The gut check: I have accomplished what I set out to do. Some of us came into our roles with a vision of what needed to be accomplished and there comes a day when it is. The question then becomes, has God given me a new vision for the next run or having accomplished what I came to accomplish is it time to look for a new role (whether in the same organization or not)? 

The boredom check: Boredom is a sign that we are not in the right role anymore and we either need to reinvent our role or look for another role that will utilize all whom God made us to be. I was once in that place. I did the job well and no one was complaining but I was bored which was a sign that I had outlasted my shelf life in that role. When our heart is no longer in what we are doing, no matter how good we can do it, it is time to move on.

The next level check: If one is a leader, as I am, there are periodic and predictable moments when the organization or team must be re-envisioned for the next run. When leaders cannot figure out what that looks like and what the organization needs to do in the next phases of ministry it is time to step aside and allow a new leader to take over. 

This is a tough reality for senior leaders. Once they have exhausted their ability to take the ministry to the next level one is left in maintenance mode which over time will send the ministry into a holding pattern which leads eventually to decline. Unfortunately this happens at a stage when the senior leader is often going to find it hard to find another similar job (the age thing) so the tendency is to stay too long at the expense of the ministry. This is often where boards step in because they realize that the lack of energy or ability to take the ministry to the next level threatens that health of the ministry and they may pull the trigger themselves. It is healthier for the senior leader to make that decision rather than to be removed by their board. Once I cannot clearly articulate the next run for the ministry my leadership is effectively over. It is not a failure, it is simply that my job is done. When a ministry outgrows us it is a good thing and reflects well on our stewardship in that growth. When we hang on too long and retard that growth it is a bad thing and reflects poorly on us.

One real option senior leaders have if they find themselves in this situation and desire to stay is to engage a competent executive coach to help them think through the relevant issues and figure out how they take the organization to the next level. This may mean that they have to work harder than they have ever worked because they are now moving into uncharged territory even for them. 


The Spirit check: Things may be going along well but the Spirit of God gives us this feeling that it is time to move on. This happened to one of my colleagues who had been with me 20 years. He could have been at our ministry till retirement but God was nudging him to move to something new. He took the risk and is doing amazing things globally. He listened to the Spirit and took a huge risk financially to follow. 


Nothing lasts forever when it comes to our job. Discernment as to when our time is finished and it is time for a transition is an important part of our stewardship both of our own lives and of the ministry we serve.