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Picture by Huskyboy

Exit Out Of Your Student Ministry Position

Part 1 — How To Leave Your Youth Ministry Position Well

Part 2 — Exit Out Of Your Student Ministry Position


There is nothing easy about leaving your current student ministry position, which is why it is essential to plan your exit.

Whether student pastors like it or not, the time of exit will test your character as a youth minister.  Trust me it will be so easy to point the finger and blame the church for why you “have” to leave.  But in this moment of exit, it is imperative you conduct yourself like Christ.

4 Ways To Conduct Your Character During Exit:

1.  Be close to Jesus

At the end of the day, you work for Jesus.  So go back to the source and get clarity to why and how you are going to exit your position.  Many people will criticize you that you are out of God’s will for wanting to leave or you are making a reactionary decision.  In this time of trial and exit, you and Jesus need to be connected at the hip.

2.  Be Decisive

Bottom line:  make a decision and stick to it.  People will want you to stay, but be firm when they ask why you are leaving.  Say something like:  Following Jesus means having to make hard decision.  Emphasize your passions for student ministry and that God has opened up a new and exiting opportunity.  It is important to exhibit clarity and confidence when exiting your church.

3.  Be Honest

Be honest with your senior leadership for the real reason why you are wanting to leave.  Don’t be completely transparent with students and parents.  It is really wise to not be divisive when leaving your church.  It is not productive to “gossip” with other parents or students about why you are leaving.  It is important to vent to trusted people outside of the church.  Remind yourself that this isn’t the first time a church employee is leaving the church for the same reasons you are leaving the church.  Be wise and walk gently.

4.  Be Gracious

Smile and extend gratitude to your church.  Your church gave you a position to do what you love to do:  Minister to students.  This is a gift.  No matter how bad your situation is at your church, you have an incredible position and be thankful for the season you were able to do student ministry at this particular church.

Discerning Your Exit:

–  Connect with friends and mentors outside of your church.

Ask your close community what they think of you leaving your current position.  Be completely real and open.  Listen to their wisdom.  Also make sure these individuals are outside of your church community so they can offer fair and non-bias feedback.

–  Take time to carefully asses your options

Tap into your youth ministry networks.  Put feelers out.  Ask the questions of:  where do you want to minister next?  What type of salary do you need?  Is youth ministry still for you?  What does your family need?   How long will you continue to stay at your current position? Do I need to step out of church ministry?

– Create a financial plan

Revise your monthly budget.  Identify your financial needs as you exit.  Ask about cashing out your vacation time and your retirement account.  Reconfigure how much your monthly budget will be as you enter a new season of ministry and/or life.

–  Secure good references

Assuming you finish well, it is essential to have good references for the future.  The people who you worked closely with, know you the best.  You may need more references in the future.

–  Leave work in good order

Ask the question of:  How can I help get the ministry secure before I leave?  Clarify what needs to be done before you leave.  This will greatly help the longevity of the seeds you sow.

–  Mend fences

If there is any bad blood between you and anybody in the church (including staff) go after it and deal with it.  Yes it will be hard and very easy not to do this.  But if any unresolved issues are not handled, they will come back to haunt you for a long time and possibly create more pain as you minister in the church.   I have too many ministry friends that left their church on bad blood and have incredibly awkward relationships with their old church.  Just say I am sorry and mustard up the guts to explain why you were hurt and move on.  Pain is part of the job description.

– Prepare family for the move

Get your house in order for the move.  More than likely, your family will begin to be alienated from the church, as you transition out.  Make sure you spend a lot of time debriefing with your family as many mixed emotions come to surface as you exit.

About Jeremy Zach

Orange XP3 Specialist | Youth Worker | MDIV | Hot Sauce Addict | Dr. Dre Beats Lover


  1. Really liked the part 1 to this, and this post as well. It is hard to keep yourself from wanting to pull an Andrew on Big Brother (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cEpO5zgztcc&feature=related) , but it is important not to – you are right. Thanks for the reminder man.

  2. What a difficult position – and I’m sure most youth leaders have been there at some point or another: needing to/wanting to leave! Great points you’ve made, which can be translated for leaving any area of which you are employed. Thinking it through, taking your time, talking to mentors, and praying – oh so necessary! I always feel like leaving a position of ministry is harder than any other field – I’ve always felt like I’m letting my church down AND my kids down! But sometimes God calls us to bigger and better, and He likely has someone waiting in the wings to take your position – and they’re probably as nervous about coming in as you are going out! :)
    ~ Victoria

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