Most pastors move from time to time. When you say goodbye, say goodbye.
Small town pastors – small church pastors can become really close to their smaller congregation. That is a very good thing – when you are there. But when you decide, or they decide for you, that it is time to move on, you need to know how to let go.
You are still friends with people in the church, that is understandable. But you are no longer their pastor! You need to step away from conversations about the new pastor or new direction the church may be going. You need to encourage people to go to the new pastor for their spiritual counseling and spiritual needs.
While it may be difficult to do, you need to find a way of removing yourself as their pastor even if you are still trying to maintain a friendship.
My personal suggestions:
1. If they are getting married, encourage them to ask their new pastor to perform the ceremony. Or at the least involve him in the ceremony even if they want the old pastor to come back to do the wedding.
2. If there is a funeral, encourage them to ask their new pastor to officiate. You may want to attend, great. You may want to be involved in the ceremony, fine. If they insist you do the ceremony, make sure you communicate this with the new pastor and find a way for him to be part of the funeral in a meaningful way as he is this families pastor!
3. Steer away from making comments or suggestions on the new vision or ministries of the church. Say only positive things or nothing at all.
It is for the church’s best interest if they bond with their new shepherd as quickly as possible. They need to learn to love and trust him like they did you!
If you say goodbye, say goodbye!