When is it appropriate to step down from a ministry?

I have received an unusual number of emails recently that run along the lines of, “Kirk, I need to step down from the Music Team.” Whenever someone steps away from the Music Team, I have mixed emotions, but I always thank them for their service. Any service to the church should be appreciated. Some people can serve for one week and some can serve for 10 years; it’s all a sacrifice of service to the Lord. How do people come to a decision to walk away from a ministry? I thought I could share my opinions about when it’s appropriate to step down and when maybe it’s inappropriate.
Appropriate Reasons
Commitments and Callings
God has called each Christian to many different tasks. Some task are given scriptural priority over others. For example, my responsibilities as a husband and father have priority over my responsibilities as ministry volunteer. If ministry stands in direct opposition to the calling that I have as a husband, I must walk away from that ministry. This takes wisdom, discernment, and a humble heart before the Lord, but scripture does not allow anyone to choose to put their marriage on the back-burner in order to fulfill some ministry calling.
Preserving Peace
This is tricky, but sometimes, you have to sacrifice your participation because it’s going to be better for the progress and peace of the whole group. Maybe you have a conflict with someone on the team that stands in the way of the ministry progressing. It’s tricky because there needs to be unity, forgiveness and peace between Christ’s disciples. However, you’re not married to a ministry; so I think it’s o.k. to walk away if you have “irreconcilable differences” with someone or with the ministry’s mission.
It’s Not Your Gift
Maybe you had image in your mind of how cool it would be to be a worship leader, but soon after you signed up, the truth came out: you don’t have the gifts to lead worship music. The church is a body of many diverse parts with different jobs. Not everyone should be in music ministry. Ask others what they think about your gifting. If they are honest friends, then they won’t blow smoke; they will tell it like it is.
Refusal to Repent
This is a little scary, but sometimes people abandon the gospel and choose to reject God’s law and His will in order to follow their own desires. If you refuse to repent, then get the heck out of ministry. You are a hypocrite if you don’t.

Inappropriate Reasons

Avoiding Conflict
Are you leaving the ministry because you have a problem with someone else who is involved and you would rather walk away from the conflict then deal with it openly? You would be surprised about how often this is the real reason that people walk away from ministry.
Fear of Failure
Are you leaving the ministry because you can’t handle failure? This is perfectionism that makes an idol of your self-image. You must perform flawlessly, or else you will die of embarrassment. This is a lie from Satan. By the way, no one is listening that closely to you! They are there to worship Jesus, not your music gift, so let it go!
It’s Too Hard
Anything that is worth doing is going to require sacrifice. If you are leaving the ministry because its easier to not do ministry then you are being a sluggard. Music is hard for everyone, even gifted people. It takes practice, concentration, physical exertion, emotional vulnerability, preparation, etc. Jesus didn’t turn away from the cross even though he knew just how difficult it would be.
This one makes me really sad. It’s so hard to see because it reveals that the person has not really believed the gospel. These people leave the team because they believe that they are too corrupted by sin to be able to serve. Just repent, look to the cross, be healed, and then say, “Here I am; send me.”

  1. #1 by Heidi H. on August 5, 2008 - 10:15 pm

    Kirk, this is an excellent post. Good thoughts, and thought provoking!

  2. #2 by Heidi Vincent on August 6, 2008 - 9:13 am

    Great post! So, what do you do when you just don’t know why you want to leave a ministry? From personal experience I would say take your fears, concerns, frustrations, inadequacies, to a band of brothers or sisters for prayer and brainstorming. It’s incredible to me how God uses his people to bring perspective and encouragement (Heb 3:13 I think that’s the passage). Obviously, this can be hard to do because it requires theat we admit our struggles and inadequacies. I had that experience this weekend, AND MAN it was so much better laughing about ministry issues and throwing around ideas rather than crying about them in isolation. I don’t think isolation is not where God wants us.
    Often I have struggled with what ministry involvement should look like when I’m going through a spiritually dry time. I wish we didn’t go through moments of doubt, but I do. So when that comes, is it o.k. to sing “God is my all in all” when my heart is saying “Is God my all in all?” I don’t really know, but it was helpful to hear that God is worthy of praise even when we don’t feel like He is, and often God can use the act of praise to humble us and reconnect us with Himself. For this reason, I stay and serve, even when I’m in the desert. The issue for me lies in singing when you have not confessed that struggle AND pretend to believe it. In that case I think I would feel too fake. Anyway, I suppose it is good for others to know leaders have doubt too. God will lift it, and if nobody knew you had it to begin with, they can’t rejoice when it’s lifted.
    I’m curious how others know which of the ministries they are called to. I know I need to learn to say “no” to some things so I can say a more full “YES” to others, but all ministries seem worth staying part of, so unless God makes it clear, I don’t want to bow out of any of them. Not sure how we get over plugged-in in the first place (need to feel used, true calling, or the desire to please others?)
    Whoa, sorry about creating a blog post as a comment-not like I’ve not done this before. 🙂 This post just hit close to home.

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