In a quick, unscheduled meeting after weekly staff meeting today, I was given my two weeks’ notice. It’s called two weeks of notice, but in actuality, I have about 5 days to process that I’ve been fired, to compose myself, and then to say goodbye to young people and colleagues I have grown to love as my own family. (The church is reducing staff and the new clergyperson who is replacing both me and two associate pastors has to start after Annual Conference…so it’s time for me to clear out.) What’s worse to bear, is that my husband and three kids are expected to leave the church with me, so I’ve also got to tell my 4, 7 and almost 10 year old that this isn’t our church family after all. In five days.
In my heart, I have known there was a problem. I have tolerated feeling isolated and frustrated for months…tolerated it because I love the youth in our ministry and I have seen God at work in such amazing ways during my tenure here: A first international mission trip igniting a passion for missions. Thousands of dollars raised by youth to help the world’s hungry. Former youth called into youth ministry as young adults…current youth hearing God’s call into ministry. Student leaders blossoming into leadership and taking ownership of their areas of ministry. Youth that were on the fringe becoming excited participants and sharing their life with me. The creation of the most enthusiastic losing basketball team ever witnessed. (Only God gets the glory for these things happening, but it’s been exciting to see it all unfold on my watch.)
So, how did this job loss come to happen? I have done all that I was asked to do, I have poured my heart into my ministry, I know students are closer to Christ for my having been here…but it basically boils down to program performance and attendance. In short, I may have mistaken the lofty words as my primary directive (equip students to be Christ’s disciples) for the business reality (the number of students you should be equipping is at least 25% more than your current attendance rate…or at least as high as some unspecified number that we believe we used to have in the youth group 10 years ago…)
Ugh. This has been a very tough day. I know my emotions are raw so I don’t want to write too much. Just the same, I still believe God has a hand in all of this. He clearly, faithfully called me to my current church, He’s clearly calling me to something else….something I haven’t quite grasped yet. Maybe in His creative wisdom, God has found a way to prune the things I’ve held on to that are not of His Kingdom – things like my pride of working for a big church, my ego associated with feeling immune to being fired (this happens all the time in youth ministry – just look at the job postings – but it is a first for me), my reluctance to quit because of actually having a decent salary in youth ministry.
Perhaps divinely inspired, I’ve focused a lot of my studies this year on the importance of youthworker self-care. At youth ministry conventions I kept hearing this recurring theme of a deep need for healing in the souls of youthworkers. We need to take care of our own spiritual health in order to take care of feeding the souls of others. We need rest. We need mentors. We need pastors that are not our bosses so someone can give us pastoral care when we, say, lose our job or some other crisis. Perhaps God has just provided me with the perfect opportunity to rest, to regroup and refocus my calling into ministry.
I do not know the plans God has for me, but fortunately He does. I know from experience that His plans are good.
I hope you’ll join me on the journey to see what He has in store. I wonder if anyone reading this has a story of their own to share?
Yours in Christ,
2 thoughts on “Two weeks’ notice”
Erin, this is very upsetting to me. I was in ministry 28 years before what I had seen happen to many others happened to me. I just got an email from the senior pastor at 5 a.m. telling me "I can no longer keep you on our staff." One disagreement, one ugly conversation in which he pounded me with criticism and lies, and I was gone. Guess it doesn’t pay to tell other members of the staff when the senior pastor abuses you.The good news is that even though this time is disappointing, frustrating, demoralizing and simply wrong, God will lead you through the wilderness to a much more beautiful place. Thank you for your witness to the goodness of God.Mike