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Editor’s note: CGN is proud to announce our partnership with Pastoral Transitions. They have an excellent podcast which you can listen to here. This article will give you an idea about their heart and vision.

When I was a pastor, I’d have days where I thought I was the luckiest person on earth. Standing in front of a couple renewing their wedding vows, preaching a message I was passionate about and the people got it, or even taking my shift at the dunk tank during the Fall Festival.

But you know where this is going.

Sometimes, I wanted out.

Dealing with the conflict, carrying the burdens, never being able to shut it all down, there were times of daydreaming: “What would it look like if I wasn’t doing this anymore?”

And then I didn’t have to imagine it; I found myself living it.

Two completely different realities.

A question that lingers in the hallways of church offices, and in the hearts of many pastors is, “Is there life after vocational ministry?”

Turning Transition into Transformation

Ministry work is more than just a job. It’s a calling that intricately makes its way into one’s identity, community, and sense of purpose.

So, what happens when a ministry leader steps away from this calling, or is asked to step away from this calling?

Is there life after ministry? Is there ministry after ministry?

Indeed, the answer is a resounding “Yes!”

But the approach to these transitions can make a profound difference.

The decision to transition out of a pastoral role often comes with a mix of emotions—grief, uncertainty, but also hope for a new beginning. Whether it’s initiated by the organization or by the pastor, the transition represents a whole-scale change of life, not simply heading down the street and filling out an application for a new job.

While much has been written about church leadership transitions, the focus is often on how to welcome a new pastor, rather than how to care for the outgoing one.

So, given the real-life experience of our own exit out of ministry, my wife and I decided to tell our story and the story of others. We launched the Life After Ministry podcast.

Purpose of the Life After Ministry Podcast

This podcast is not about trying to point the finger at the church and tell her everything that’s wrong. We care deeply about the church and want to see her become the splendid bride we read about at the end of Revelation.

Good intentions on the part of church boards or leadership teams are important—but insufficient. The tangible impact of a leader’s exit can reverberate through not just their own lives, but their families and communities as well.

If your last day of ministry was called “Day 0,” we take a look at what “Day 1” looks like.

  • How do you decide what your new career is?
  • What’s your financial runway, and are there smarter ways to mitigate losses?
  • Where’s God in the midst of a transition?
  • Do you need some counseling? How about your spouse and kids?

And what’s the impact on a church community?

If not managed well, a pastoral transition can cost a ministry far more than they anticipate. Anger and division within the congregation can lead to reduced giving, and a loss of members means fewer resources for mission and outreach. Worse, the social capital of trust and community is depleted, sometimes irrevocably. Don’t believe us? We’ve seen it, and you’ve at least heard about it.

Benefits of Turning Transition into Transformation

Imagine a scenario where the outgoing pastor is honored with grace and their transition is managed as an investiture into their future, rather than a termination. An announcement from the pulpit might go something like this:

“We love this pastor deeply and care about what’s next for them, as much as we care for the ongoing vitality of our church community. That’s why we’ve contracted with an organization called Pastoral Transitions, to closely work with them over the next six months to ensure their success and emotional well-being.”

The result?

  • The torches are put away.
  • The anger dissipates.
  • The gossip disappears.

Everyone can breathe a collective sigh of respect and relief, thankful for the compassion extended by leadership.

Whether you’re in ministry and considering whether there’s life AFTER ministry, or you have to make a tough decision regarding a ministry staff member you love, we invite you to listen to the Life After Ministry podcast and hear stories of turning transition into transformation.

Matt Davis served as a Teaching and Executive Pastor for more than two decades in Orange County, California. After going through his own pastoral transition out of ministry, Matt learned the difficulty of this season. He helped start Pastoral Transitions, a ministry committed to helping ministry leaders navigate pastoral transitions with grace. As President, he seeks to bring healing and reconciliation to churches and their people.