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» Ship of Fools   »   » Oblivion   » Supporting people in ministry when a ministry ends

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Source: (consider it) Thread: Supporting people in ministry when a ministry ends

# 3254

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I found out tonight that a ministry I am involved in is ending. The pastors who run it are ending it against their will due to financial issues and are pretty devastated as it has been their life's work for many years. I am grieving for the loss of this ministry in my life and for the many people we minister to as well, but I saw the writing on the wall and was not totally shocked by this outcome. (Though things are ending much more quickly than I expected - I thought there might be a few years left at best or at least to the end of this year).

What I would really like advice about is how to support the pastors, who are also friends of mine, and around retirement age, through this really difficult time. How do you help people who have lived, breathed and put heart, soul and body into a ministry and then have to end it before they feel its time was up and while they still have the capacity to run it? It would be great to hear from those who have experienced similar situations or have supported people through this type of experience.

Perhaps I am trying to be too much of a 'fixer upperer' and should leave a lot in God's hands, but I am feeling so helpless seeing my friends in such pain.

[ 08. June 2016, 13:06: Message edited by: Mili ]

Posts: 1015 | From: Melbourne, Australia | Registered: Aug 2002  |  IP: Logged
# 13338

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I suspect your friends (and you) will experience it as a kind of death. So I would respond the way you would if a friends' spouse, with whom you also had a friendship, were to suddenly pass away before their time. Don't offer easy tropisms about "God opening doors", don't try to fix it. Just sit with them, grieve with them. See if they have any practical needs (financial or vocational) that you can assist with. Pray with and for them. Share memories. Weep together.

This will be a special kind of grieving because we don't have something like a funeral or any culturally established modes for expressing grief. So just making a space for that-- going out for a beer to talk about it, grieve together-- will be tremendously helpful to the healing process.

Also just saying out loud, "this sucks."

"Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid." -Frederick Buechner

Posts: 11242 | From: a small canyon overlooking the city | Registered: Jan 2008  |  IP: Logged
# 1458

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I recently found a great article addressed to those grieving the end of active ministry [url= http://www.preacherdevelopment.uk7.net/A%20Preacher's%20Retirement.pdf]here.[/url]

[Edited to fix broken URL code - Piglet, AS host]

[ 08. June 2016, 16:52: Message edited by: Piglet ]

Posts: 23198 | From: Bristol | Registered: Oct 2001  |  IP: Logged
Lamb Chopped
Ship's kebab
# 5528

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Yes. It will be a death, and it will keep on dying, if you know what I mean. It's all the harder when there is no new ministry focus to distract you from the old. And it's very easy to wind up asking God, "Where do we go from here? What's the roadmap now?" which is a normal but very uncomfortable place to be in, after years of having a path marked out.

Listen. Don't avoid mentioning the ministry or asking about it ("How is so-and-so doing? What's going to happen with X?") Silence won't spare them any pain. Expect the grieving to take years, though hopefully the worst of it will be up front and early.

When it happened to us, one thing I eventually found solace in was using the bank of experience we'd gained to help others (write a book, create resources for similar ministries, etc. etc.--that kind of thing). Though this might be way too early to think about those possibilities.

Besides all the "this is like a death in the family" stuff, it's also like retirement in other ways, whether they actually do retire or not. Their identity has been tied up in this ministry for yonks. But now that the ministry is ending, the day is coming quickly when people will look at them blankly and say "and who are you again?" no matter how well-known they were in that particular field. And that leaves a curious sense of having vanished as a person. They will know better, of course; but the emotions are still there. And it takes some time to adapt from the wrong-but-common attitude "I am what I do" (ministry worker in X) to "I am what I am, child of God." If they've managed to avoid that common trap, I salute them. I think most people struggle with it, and the problem becomes acute when the work goes away.

This all sucks so much. Just be there for them, and keep calling, having coffee together, etc. Don't vanish with the rest of the herd, who were only ever there because it was to do with the work anyway. And they will be blessed in you.

Er, this is what I've been up to (book).
Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down!

Posts: 20059 | From: off in left field somewhere | Registered: Feb 2004  |  IP: Logged

# 14998

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I'm afraid that link is still broken, Piglet.

But God, holding a candle, looks for all who wander, all who search. - Shifra Alon
Beauty fades, dumb is forever-Judge Judy
The man who made time, made plenty.

Posts: 8040 | From: Æbleskiver country | Registered: Aug 2009  |  IP: Logged
Banner Lady
Ship's Ensign
# 10505

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I liken it to being yanked out of a very comfortable garden. You're healthy, growing well and then it all disappears. The connections, the soil - the environment is gone.

It's actually bloody stressful for the plant. All you can do is try to stay alive until it becomes clear if and when you will be replanted.

I recommend not drying out too much. Find whatever spiritual water you can until you know what the next season in your life will be. And rest. Because you deserve it after all you have poured out to others.


Women in the church are not a problem to be solved, but a mystery to be enjoyed.

Posts: 7080 | From: Canberra Australia | Registered: Oct 2005  |  IP: Logged
# 11803

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Originally posted by jacobsen:
I'm afraid that link is still broken, Piglet.

I'm not quite sure which part of the site Leo meant to link to. When I clicked on the link I "repaired" it said the file couldn't be found but offered a link to the Methodist Church Leeds Preacher Development web-site home page.

I may not be on an island any more, but I'm still an islander.
alto n a soprano who can read music

Posts: 20272 | From: Fredericton, NB, on a rather larger piece of rock | Registered: Sep 2006  |  IP: Logged
Iron Wannabe
# 9397

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I would concur with the advice here.
Don't do something, just stand there.

It is ok to grieve.
It is ok to not have answers.
And it is ok for you to grieve as well.

The other thing I would think about is celebrating the legacy- the good outcomes that have occurred over the years.

Marathon run. Next Dream. Australian this time.

Posts: 3511 | Registered: Apr 2005  |  IP: Logged
Welease Woderwick

Sister Incubus Nightmare
# 10424

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Brilliant thought, Patdys!

Can a service or Meeting or something of thanksgiving be organised?

I give thanks for unknown blessings already on their way.
Fancy a break in South India?
Accessible Homestay Guesthouse in Central Kerala, contact me for details

What part of Matt. 7:1 don't you understand?

Posts: 48139 | From: 1st on the right, straight on 'til morning | Registered: Sep 2005  |  IP: Logged

# 3254

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Thanks for all the advice. I'm not feeling too bad yet, but know it affected me as I barely slept last night and am usually a good sleeper. There's lots of work to do to wrap things up in a short time and the pastors have said they will need some time to process everything and decide what they are doing next. However we do plan on having a get together after things settle down. Maybe we could make a photo book or album to celebrate the many years of service the couple gave to the community. I'm sure us volunteers will come up with something appropriate.

I managed to open the link above by copying and pasting into the address book and it did have some good advice for retiring pastors. I don't think this couple will retire yet, though I do know they have considered fostering children, but the charity kept them too busy up to now, so maybe that may be their next step. They will definitely need some time off first though, unless God has other plans as sometimes happens.

Posts: 1015 | From: Melbourne, Australia | Registered: Aug 2002  |  IP: Logged
# 1458

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There's something odd abot that url - if you go via this review and click the link where it says 'reference to an article on their website it should take you there.

My Jewish-positive lectionary blog is at http://recognisingjewishrootsinthelectionary.wordpress.com/
My reviews at http://layreadersbookreviews.wordpress.com

Posts: 23198 | From: Bristol | Registered: Oct 2001  |  IP: Logged
Jengie jon

Semper Reformanda
# 273

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This is just an idea and a transitional one. If it were a person who died there might well be a book of condolences. Why don't you or someone else involved set about collecting reminisces from the clients and volunteers to present to leader so they have something positive and tangible left from the ministry?


"To violate a persons ability to distinguish fact from fantasy is the epistemological equivalent of rape." Noretta Koertge

Back to my blog

Posts: 20894 | From: city of steel, butterflies and rainbows | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged

# 3254

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That sounds like a great idea too. Maybe we could make a scrap book or digital album of some sort or even an i-Movie with photos and text or spoken memories. A lot of our programs are for children though who don't yet know we're winding up and love our programs, even homework program [Frown] . We do have testimonies from children who are now grown up and how their lives were helped etc. and also from the children about what they like about our programs - these could be included.
Posts: 1015 | From: Melbourne, Australia | Registered: Aug 2002  |  IP: Logged

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