When you’re deciding to leave a church, you must discern between your desires and His Plan – especially if they feel juxtaposed. If you’re not listening when you pray, you won’t hear His Voice. So how do you know when it’s time to find a new church, then gracefully begin leaving the church you grew up and volunteered with for so long?
I had some moments before church, I knew it would be a tight day, and I didn’t know when I would be “free” in the evening to review the work I had done Friday night. Such is the life of a salaried worker.
I’m not even sure what I said to myself putting on my makeup. Honestly, the 23 hours is a mentality of faith, lifestyle, and mindset for me, so I knew I had said some grateful small “thank God I woke up today” prayer as I got out of bed.
I heard fairly loudly (it’s been getting louder the more I pray, the more I leave space to listen, the more I say thank you, the more close I feel with my Father), that I should let my old church know that I would not come back to serve as a volunteer – much less that I’m leaving the church entirely.
I don’t know where this came from, the Holy Spirit usually does not make mental connections for me. Or at least, I’ve never heard them outright. Sometimes, I just wake up with ideas, I’m just sitting in the car and have to pull over – my biggest fear is that I’ve lost so many ideas, time, and influence by not pulling over and by not following through on those ideas.
I still have that scattered memory, where was I?
So I knew it was early in the day and resolved to send the volunteer coordinator a text when church was over.
And then I packed up and went out. I needed to be a little earlier than normal, I was worried about getting a spot and more so, taking a handicapped spot someone else needed more. Having a boot and needing confidence at the same time are surprisingly difficult for me to achieve most days.
I spent some time reading first, I’m not about to be 30 minutes early to anything anymore, unless I need to be. I polo’d a friend as I was going in – I’m not sure why I’m so silly to think that he won’t respond as I’m doing something else. He’s always so sweet and usually awake, then I want to talk as I’m going in between events. I rushed past the sweet greeter who asked “how much longer with this boot?” I don’t stop, merely giving him a side smile and trying to hide the sigh that came involuntarily. I wish someone had told me just how harrowing that question would be when you’re so lost, angry, and uncertain of your future when you’re injured and unhappy with the consequences. “When I stop traveling I guess,” I sorta yelled back, rushing into the building for the bathroom, convincing myself I could grab coffee before my tattoo appointment that was after church.
My new church sermon series has been about the church and how Jesus wants the people to function within and without if its walls. Once again, I heard from my pastor’s mouth – when you are leaving a church, be an adult, tell them your plans, and leave on good terms. Don’t gossip about their wrongs to me, because I’ll be waiting for you to leave and do the same to my church. If we’re not it for you, we’ll help you find the church that is as perfect as we can get – because we’re human, no church will ever be perfect and it’s erroneous to believe you can find that anywhere this side of heaven.
So convicted. I have to tell my old church. Today.
But after church, I had a few moments to eat, grab coffee, and think about the plan for this blog and how to word “I’m leaving this church”. I think, just because we’ve grown apart, why does it seem so hard to be honest with the very people that should understand?
My artist is light-handed and quick. 4 line-work pieces, only one I would consider small, and I was out in 2 hours (he drew for 30 minutes of that because I am not the greatest at expressing my artist intent). With the rest of the night in front of me, it was too much for my ADHD brain. I tried to nap, I failed. Or rather, I recommitted to my identity as a no-napper. I’m okay with that, but the headache was a little real, which made me not want to write or read or draw – so… work it is?
I grabbed pre-prepped food for Monday and Chipotle for that night. I sat for myself and read through my draft again. I checked emails, I checked Instagram, I talked to friends…
It was around 5p I remembered I had a text to send! I was nervous and scared to even say out loud that I was leaving the church, I got pretty close to staff and volunteers while I served – I guess that’s the point of building a community. The next best idea would be an email to the woman who had reached out when I rejected a bunch of days in a row when I originally hurt myself in October. Then my selfishness arises quickly. I could wait and go to the volunteer banquet in a couple of weeks. Why not? I volunteered all spring and summer, why not get recognized for that? Would I regret not going to the volunteer banquet the night before Vegas?
I don’t want to waste time, money, or energy – for me or them. I may regret it, but I won’t regret using that time to sow into something else (like sleep). So something very short to say I’m leaving and grateful for the time but bye – maybe please take me off the volunteer list? I found another church and I’d rather serve there, or really, I’m trying to serve with other people in a different capacity…
Short and sweet, make sure it’s pretty and grammatically correct – then the 5-second rule – send it before you can chicken out again. Ignore the response at first.
Any excuse will work remember? But at least I finally did send out my goodbye.
And that’s how an anxiety-stricken millennial can follow the Holy Spirit, gain insight from a pastor’s message, and try to leave a church gracefully – hopefully with bridges intact. I guess I’ll have to let you know how it worked out when I need to cross those bridges again.