Know when to quit

The Community Center at ChathamAt the end of this month, I will step down from the board of the non-profit I started four years ago.  It’s time for me to quit.  It’s time for me to turn over this organization and the community center we built to others whose gifts in fundraising, management, and programming exceed mine.  

We started Chatham Cares, Inc.  in 2005 in order to develop plans and funding for a community center in our county seat town.  In the past four years we started a Boys and Girls Club in Chatham; designed a 16,000-square-foot building; rallied public support; received a $3-million grant to construct and furnish it; and, opened the building to rave reviews in June, 2008.  I enjoyed every minute of it!

But, the building is built, the programs are running smoothly under the capable leadership of Director Lori Slayton, and it’s time for me to move on to other projects.  

Here are some questions I asked myself as I was making the decision to step down:

  1.  Have we finished this phase?  I was interested in making sure the building design, construction, and furnishings were functional, beautiful, and flexible.  We accomplished that, but now the project is beginning another phase of sustaining programs and recruiting supporters.
  2. Am I the best person for the next phase, or will different gifts be needed? Fundraising is a big thing for us now, and I’m not a good person to do that.  My position as pastor in a small town with a limited number of potential donors conflicts with my own church needs.  Plus, programming, board management, and day-to-day details are not my strong suit.  I enjoyed being the public face of this effort, but I’m not a good detail guy.
  3. Do I enjoy what I’m doing now?  I loved the design and building phase.  I don’t enjoy the management phase.  I don’t like negotiating contracts, dealing with vendors, and solving recurring problems.  Some folks do, I don’t.
  4. Will my presence help or hinder the future of this project?  Tough one to answer because, of course, we all think that we’re the best person to carry on the project we started.  But honestly, not always.  Different needs call for different gifts.  The future of this project is about more than any one individual.  My honest answer was that someone else was needed to take the center to the next level.

From a church standpoint, this will give me more time to work with our growing Sunday School class, visit our own members, and reconnect with other pastors in the area.  Don’t get me wrong — this was an emotional decision for me.  I invested four years of my life and energy in a project that I believed in.  But this will be a good step for Chatham Cares.  

Two years ago I wrote a post titled, Don’t Quit! about leaving pastoral ministry.  I’ve learned it’s also important to know when to quit.  Now is the time.  

Have any of you faced similar decisions?  How did you make your decision to quit or stay?  I’d be interested to hear from you.

4 thoughts on “Know when to quit”

  1. Great post! I have often felt led to start ministries when the need was made obvious to me. Over the years I have started a food pantry, a clothing ministry, moved in to the local jail and in to the local prison to serve as chaplain, etc. In each of these situations, once the ministry was established, someone else would emerge to take it over. And then, just as strong as the leading to start the ministry was, came a sense that I was done. Each time it happens I am fascinated. Once you pour your heart into something and you see things happening it is sometimes hard to turn it loose and yet, deep inside you know its right and so you let it go. It has been my experience though that something else is usually right ahead. Blessings on whatever comes next!

    1. Steve, thanks for your experience. I do think there are those who “plant” and those who “water” and God gives the increase, as Paul so wonderfully expressed it. Sounds like that’s the case in your life, too.

  2. It’s the difference between pioneers and settlers in our American history; each had their place, both were important. I think we have the same situation in ministry and mission.

  3. This is a great post Chuck. It complements your “Dont Quit” post very nicely.
    Making the decision to move on from a place of public ministry can be a wrenching experience, but being able to ask the right kinds of questions, as you did for stepping down from the board, will help to put the move in an honest context.
    In 2006, I had to ask myself some questions about my continued vocation as a pastor. Like so many who have moved out from the role, it was a difficult decision to make, especially since the default setting for leadership is perserverance, as your “Dont Quit” post shows.
    But sometimes, after weighing all the elements of your situation together, there is a time to move on and this is what your post here so aptly implies.

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