Transitional Leadership in Youth Ministry

So, it’s become fairly public knowledge at this point that my season of part-time youth ministry at Parma Lutheran is drawing to a close as God has opened up the door for a new season of ministry through a full-time position at a church in another part of the state following graduation in June.  A lot of this transitional stuff is the reason the blog has fallen silent on “youth ministry tuesdays” for the past couple of weeks–life has been pretty chaotic.

During the next 8 weeks, I’d like to dedicate some real estate to blogging through the transitional process–announcing departure, setting up systems for success, remembering the work God has done, looking into the future, etc. I’m not really planning a formal series of posts on this, because I kind of want it to take shape as the season progresses.

Today, I want to address a bit of the process of entering into a season of transition. One of the things that has been a blessing for me is that I’ve had a number of people walking with me through the transition process for the past few months–mentors, friends, and even co-workers at PLC. I made a concerted effort to keep those with whom I work most closely at the church in the loop during the search process, and I’ve tried to be as open as possible with the kids in my youth group about the fact that I’m graduating school in June. So, when I made the announcements to church council and the jr. high, sr. high and young adult sunday school classes this week, it wasn’t so much a slap in the face as it was a next step that had already been foreshadowed. Those are important things leading up to the transition: keeping people in the loop, having mentors to walk with, and keeping the youth as informed as possible that a season of transition may be coming.

Trust me.

Even though it is still hard to sit in a council meeting and read a resignation letter, or to sit in front of a group of young people you really care about and start a conversation about the fact that you’ll be leaving, tilling the soil before hand will make those conversations go a lot easier when the time finally comes.

Finally, when the time comes, take the time to think through what you’re going to write in your resignation letter and what you’re going to say once you get in front of that group of kids. Pray about it. Write a couple drafts. Pray about it some more.

Here’s some of what I shared with our church council last Tuesday, which also provided the substance for the conversations I had with our young people on Sunday (though I didn’t read it to the youth):

April 12, 2011

Dear Members of Parma Lutheran Church,

Grace and peace to you all from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

In August 2008, we stepped out together on an incredible journey as you all welcomed me into your church family as a staff member in the position of Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries. The years since then have been filled with many joys and blessings.

Since August 2008 we have welcomed a handful of young people as new members of Parma Lutheran Church and seen those young people become involved in our ministry. We have developed a partnership with the youth ministry at Divinity Lutheran in Parma Heights that has blossomed into a number of wonderful opportunities for our young people as well as theirs. We have established a vision for youth ministry at Parma Lutheran that has served to guide us as we seek to launch our young people into adulthood with a vibrant faith in Jesus Christ. We have taken youth on trips and retreats that they continue to talk about on a regular basis–Youth Specialties’ DCLA in 2009, Spoke Folk in 2009 and 2010, Teens Encounter Christ in 2010, and several retreats at Camp Mowana. It has been an incredible blessing to walk with you all through these years.

As many of you know, the beginning of my ministry here was also the beginning of my seminary education at Ashland Theological Seminary. It was your willingness to step in at that point in time that really made my seminary education possible. It is hard to believe that these years of balancing a full-time seminary career with part-time ministry are drawing to a close. As I have been preparing for graduation, it has become clear that God is, indeed, calling me into full-time youth and family ministry.

As graduation is fast approaching it is clear that we are entering a season of transition. Today, I am officially submitting notice of my resignation pending my graduation at the end of this academic year. With that in mind, I am fully committed to providing transitional leadership during the next 8 weeks. My last Sunday will be June 5th. During this transitional time, I will be working closely with the youth leaders, council, and church staff to be sure that we finish out this year well and that we have structures in place to ensure that ministry continues well beyond my departure.

After this time of transition, Scott and I will be moving to Dayton, OH, where I have been called to serve as the full-time Youth Director for Epiphany Lutheran Church. We are stepping out in faith to follow the call of God in a new season of ministry.

Please hear these words from the bottom of my heart: though my relationship with you as Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries will change, my love for all of you will not. It is my prayer that this season of transition will be one in which we can embrace together the exciting work that God has in store for Parma Lutheran Church even as He calls for our paths to diverge.

In the words of the apostle Paul, this is my prayer for you all in this season of transition:

“For this reason, I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:14-21

Respectfully submitted with love for all of you,

Erin Haligowski

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