I have noticed a recurring theme in my recent conversations with kids ministry leaders and in posts I’ve read in online children’s ministry groups. It seems many kids pastors are frustrated with their work situations and are considering job changes or questioning their calling to ministry altogether. This raises an important question. How do you know if it’s time to change jobs?
Everyone’s situation is unique. Experiencing challenges does not necessarily mean it’s time to quit. Some may simply need a word of encouragement and a challenge to persevere. For others, however, it may in fact be time to move on. Only the Lord can answer that question for sure, but there are a few checks you can use as you evaluate your situation in light of His leading. One of the best bits of advice I have ever heard about making big decisions is to look for God to provide a push, a pull and a peace.
The Lord will let you know when it’s time to go, but you need to listen and respond. When God wants to move you, He may use circumstances around you to prepare you to go. Looking back on past moves that I have made, I can clearly see how God had begun preparing me to transition out of past roles well in advance of my departure dates. Sometimes He provided gentle nudges and other times He had to clobber me over my big hard head. Ask God to help you discern what you see happening at your workplace. If you feel increasingly dissatisfied; if opportunity and influence are being taken from you; if you find yourself feeling like an outsider in your organization; if you feel that you are falling out of favor; if you no longer have a voice; if your ability to contribute effectively within your calling and giftedness is hindered, diminished, or no longer possible, God may be preparing you for something else. Perhaps it’s the opposite. You may have a strong sense of satisfaction that your work is complete; perhaps the mission you came to address has been accomplished; maybe it’s time to pass the torch to another runner and get out of their way.
If you identify with any of these things, or with many of them, God may be nudging you towards a change. On its own, the feeling of a push may not provide enough reason to leave a role, but when God leads He often also provides a pull to another place.
Pushes are excellent indicators that it might be time to leave a position, but it is the pull to a new task or opportunity that often prompts us to finally make a move. God often leads by compelling His people with an irresistible passion for a particular place, purpose, or people. At some point you may feel so greatly burdened by a need that you cannot not answer the call. Don’t hold back in responding to the call of the Lord. If you know God has called you to something and you have been delaying, this may be the time to step out in faith. While leaving a role can be difficult, oftentimes any pain that comes as a result of leaving one place is far exceeded by the joy that comes from the passionate pursuit of a pull to something greater. Instead of worrying about the end of your current role, look for a greater calling. Ask the Lord to give you a clear calling to whatever He has purposed for you next, and pursue it.
When we walk closely with the Lord and faithfully follow His lead, He provides a peace through the process. That’s not to say that all God-initiated transition is painless. Often the peace of God doesn’t always precede a move. His peace typically comes along the path to affirm steps of faith. Sometimes He doesn’t part the waters until our feet are wet. Read Joshua 3. — Leaving a job, especially in ministry, can be hard. It can stir up feelings of sadness, discouragement, hurt and regret. It is okay to mourn the end of a chapter in life. Stepping into the unknown can be frightening. Too many times we allow fear to win out over faith. Our peace does not come from our circumstances; many times it comes despite them. God blesses those who take steps to follow His lead without having the whole picture.
Push, Pull, and Peace in Practice
There are many accounts of God challenging His people to leave one place and go to another, but for me none displays this picture of push, pull, and peace quite like the account in Matthew 8. Jesus and the disciples are in Capernaum. His ministry is on fire. His fame has grown. He is the talk of every town. Huge crowds are following Him. Everywhere He goes they press against Him. Their faith in Him surges. People are caught, taught, and healed. Prophecy is being fulfilled. In the midst of this wildly successful ministry Jesus calls to His disciples. It’s time to go. Wait. Now? Why would they leave this? Everything was going great. Why would they walk away? — Jesus had other plans. He knew there was more in store. There were other people in other places with other needs. Different ministry to be done in a different place. So He pushed them out of the big crowds and pulled them into a tiny boat. They left in success.
As Jesus compelled them to leave, some around Him made excuses to stay. They hesitated. They held back. They delayed. They had other things to do first. Not the disciples. They heard. They went. And what was their reward? Trouble. — Wind. Waves. Stress. Doubt. Fear. Jesus took them from the mountaintop of success to the depths of despair, then, just when they thought death was all that was left, Jesus spoke peace. He commanded calm, and calm came. The disciples learned more of who He was by trembling in the storm than they did in the comfort of their success. When they arrived on the other side of the sea there was more ministry. New healing. Deliverance of the oppressed. Chaos was conquered. Peace was restored. And the Gospel spread to a whole new region. But, the people in that place weren’t impressed. They were angry. Jesus’ good works didn’t result in acceptance. The people begged them to leave. So, they did. They left amidst conflict. And as they went, Jesus’ ministry expanded again.
What is God Telling You?
If you are feeling it might be time to make a move and aren’t sure if you should stay or go, assess your situation in light of a push, a pull, and a peace. Ask God to give you a clear calling and listen to what He says. Be careful to not mistake a temporary trial (a challenge that comes for the purpose of growth, maturity, and refinement) for a push to leave, but be aware of what God is doing around you and don’t ignore the prompt. If you know it’s time to go, don’t overstay.
Be willing to follow wherever He leads, so whether you come or go the name of Jesus will be magnified.
Chuck Peters is Director of Operations for Lifeway Kids. A graduate of Columbia Bible College, Chuck and his wife, Cris, have served vocationally & voluntarily in Student and Children’s Ministry for many years. They have four amazing children.