Reflections on Pastoral Ministry Part 5: The Pain Of Leaving

nowhere church

Up until very recently, I was in pastoral ministry. I pastored a micro-church in the Ottawa Valley. (For the unfamiliar micro churches are essentially the opposite of mega churches. Definitions vary, but generally, churches that have 50 or fewer in weekly attendance can be considered micro.) It was an experience I’ll remember for the rest of my life. Some of it was great, some of it was…not. Now, however, at the end of my time there, I wanted to take some time and share some thoughts on the experience.

Nobody likes endings. Statistically though, in our churches at least, they happen pretty often. George Barna has found that the average tenure of a pastor in a church is about five years. Incidentally, he also finds that pastors tend to see the best return on their investment into a church from years five through fourteen; that’s a sad fact.

I spent exactly three years in Eganville, and for the most part I loved my time there. Like everything, there were good times and challenging times. Overall though, looking back, I really enjoyed my time in Eganville, and unlike many in my position, there was no animosity in my leaving. I didn’t want to leave, and the church leadership didn’t want me to leave either. Thing is, since we are such a small church, we just didn’t have the budget to sustain my meager salary. And, since we are in a rural context,  I don’t have the skills to go bi-vocational. (If there was a Starbucks nearby, that’d have been a different story.) So the unfortunate reality was that I had to be laid off, that’s just the way it goes sometimes.

None of this made leaving any easier.

Our church is a good mix of young and old. Grand parents and young families. There were a number of kids who I have literally known all their lives. I met them within hours of their birth. Along with their parents, I dedicated them. My son and daughter grew up alongside them. For the last month we were in Eganville before moving back home to the Niagara Region, it stung a bit when one of the kids from the church called me “Pastor Kevin.” It stung a bit when we’d drive past the church on a Sunday morning on our way to another service at a different congregation and I had to tell my daughter: “No, sweetie, that’s not our church anymore…” It stings now, when she says she wants to go to Day Care, or School’s Cool, or Toy Bus, and she can’t. It hurts that I won’t get to be a part of what happens next at the church, that I won’t see what God does next. This will always be “My first church” the first church to give a young, idealistic pastor a shot at a weekly pulpit, and I’ll always look back fondly on that.

There are many people I’ll miss, (I already miss them.) even some of the ones I didn’t think I’d miss at all. There are a couple loose ends I wish I’d had time to tie off and resolve but never did. But the beauty of Jesus’ Church is that this isn’t really goodbye. It’s just a “see ya later!” After all, we’ll see each other again, and it’ll be in the best church ever, with the best Pastor ever.

For now we see what’s next. What’s next for me and my family is something I’ve never really had the chance to do yet: Church Shop.

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