Starting over is hard. Moving to a new city, finding a new job, starting kids at a new school, learning to find a new favorite grocery store… its a lot of new, and a lot of tough stuff. This past year has been a year of starting over for us. We finally moved from outside Memphis TN to Decatur Alabama, where my husband had been living nine months prior to our move. We’ve spent the last year with lots of new in front of us, and its been quite the journey.
My husband started his ordination process in the United Methodist Church to become a Deacon. My oldest, AJ started middle school, grew a foot and is now taller than me, and is as much of a teenager as any 12 year old could be. CW made it through 2nd grade by the skin of his teeth, but he learned to ride his bike to school and that he’s not always in charge (two pretty good lessons for 2nd grade if you ask me). We also got a new addition of a little guy at our house, their little brother NM, born on March 23, 2017. So its been quite a year for us.
I started a job in August of 2016, only to be offered another in January of 2017, so my professional world was full of changes. I am now the Director of Youth Ministries at Messiah Lutheran Church in Madison Alabama. I am excited for all of the great times that will undoubtedly come with this job, and to be home in the Lutheran church.
That being said, starting over in youth ministry is hard. I miss my kids. I miss my kids from Tennessee, every Facebook memory reminding me of summer trips to Orlando, St Louis, water parks, and baseball games. I miss my kids from St Louis, where my very first 6th graders graduated from High School this year. We try to convince ourselves that we are going to stay with our kids all the way through their time in youth ministry, and the more youth leaders are receive training the longer they stay in one job, but sometimes leaving is necessary.
My girl Tori Mick, youth pastor in Baton Rouge LA, wrote a great post for Youth Specialties about finishing well , and I highly recommend you read it if you are about to leave a congregation. But after you’ve left, we sometimes forget how hard it is to start again. We get all wrapped up in the adrenaline of new possibilities and don’t take time to decompress and evaluate where we are emotionally from the last ministry.
So here are some ways I have found to make starting over a little more bearable.
Moving, finding a new home, registering for school, unpacking, its all a mess. Its even worse if you have to start work right after you unload the truck. Even if you don’t have to physically move out of your house to change jobs, there’s still all kinds of stuff that has to be taken care of. So don’t plan to just quit one day and start the next. Give yourself a week, or two or four if you can afford it. Go on vacation, see a movie with friends, just do something that is all about you and take care of yourself.
Ease Into the New:
Don’t try to hit the ground running with a million new ideas and programs. Every time someone asks me what I’m going to do in my first few months of ministry I tell them “learn names”. While this is said partly in jest, there’s a certain amount of name learning that is essential before you can just start changing everything about a youth program. It also gives you time to identify what is working, and what isn’t, without worrying about your own agenda.
Don’t Cut Off the Old:
There are different guidelines depending on who you ask about cutting off ties to your former youth. I am of the opinion that I don’t seek out youth, i.e. I don’t call them or text them, but if they contact me I’ll respond. This keeps an avenue open for them to reach out if they need me, but I maintain professional boundaries and respect their new youth leaders. Its hard to just leave a ministry and pretend like we didn’t develop relationships that still need tending after we leave. As long as everyone (including the new youth leader, parents, youth and yourself) are on the same page healthy relationships can be a great asset for you and your youth as they continue their walk with Christ.
As exciting as it can be to start over, just remember to take care of yourself in the newness of your life, so you don’t burn out before you even get started.