Archive for ◊ December, 2010 ◊

• Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

Post by

Gretchen Switzer

Author of “Finishing With Grace”

I recently heard about a clergyman who takes great pride in the fact that he maintains close relationships with members of churches he has left.  He does funeral services and weddings, baptisms and family celebrations and offers pastoral advice to people who are now members of some else’s congregation.

At first glance, this is all very nice, and under other circumstances, I would commend this pastor for the ability to retain so many relationships.

HOWEVER, there is a long time tradition among clergy that once you leave a church, you let the new minister exercise his or her ministry with all the people of the church now in their care without interfering.  If you wish to perform a pastoral task for someone in a colleague’s congregation, you ask permission from the current minister. The reason for this is three-fold.
First and most importantly, if a church member continues a pastoral relationship with a minister who has left the church, they are likely never to really bond with the new minister or even give that individual a chance to  truly be their pastor.

Secondly, ministers who refuse to say “goodbye” and instead stay involved in the lives of parishioners they are no longer supposed to be serving, then those clergy stand in the way of the new pastor, who is trying to create healthy, meaningful relationships within that parish.
Finally, the pastor who stays so closely connected with a former congregation takes energy away from  getting to know a new church to whom they have been called.
In every case above, someone’s loyalties end up divided.  This can be confusing, disturbing and unhealthy for all relationships within a congregation.
Although it is unbelievably difficult to walk away from a congregation to whom we have been very close, and equally difficult to give up our ties to a beloved pastor,  it is in the best interest of everyone concerned for  us to do just that.

Perhaps an example is helpful.  One day a parent takes her child to college — it’s the beginning of their freshman year.  That mother doesn’t want to say goodbye or let their child go, so she rents an apartment a few blocks away and begins spending hours upon hours with her kid in the kid’s dorm room.
The kid is okay with this because he/she never feels lonely, doesn’t have to go out and make new friends or find a new support system because Mom is still there.
Is this healthy?  Does the new college student take responsibility for their own lives while Mom is doing the ironing?  What happens to the Mom’s life?  Does she turn her back on the rest of the family and friends and work, in order not to let go of Tim or Megan?  Does anyone in the dorm or on campus wish to pursue a relationship with Henry or Sophie when they learn these kids cannot  pull themselves away from  Mom?

When a  congregation you love is ready to move on, or when the pastor you adore is called in a different direction, it is vital that both let go, so the other has the freedom to move forward  freely and effectively.


To Purchase “Finishing With Grace” click here

Click here to email  Gretchen

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• Monday, December 06th, 2010

By Linda Hilliard

Co-author, Finishing With Grace

The reason Gretchen and I wrote Finishing with Grace was because we wished we had had such a guidebook when we worked together on the sale of our church in Framingham.  During that difficult time, as individuals and as a congregation, we had to learn as we went along.  We made some mistakes, we did some things right and it wasn’t easy.

Truthfully – we don’t  expect the book to be a best seller (no Oprah appearances for us).  Our goal has always been to help other congregations who are faced with similar challenges around their future.  Of course – should there be a high demand for us to lead seminars and workshops – especially in the tropics this winter with all expenses paid  (anyone?? ), we’d happily oblige.

What has been especially heartening in the few weeks since the book has been published is the realization that our book is needed and will be of value.   As soon as we started spreading the word about Finishing with Grace, we began to hear from people.  “My mother’s church in Connecticut may be closing.”  “I saw an article on line about a church in Washington State that may need your book.”  “My friend in New Mexico would be interested in seeing your book.”

We’re also starting to hear from denominational representatives and from religious leaders.   There are inquiries – there is a curiosity:   “What’s this book about.?”  “Can it help our churches?”

You, dear blog reader, can help us.  Do you know a church that is struggling with declining membership, tightening budgets, fears for the future?  If a church or a congregation you know is facing an uncertain future, please tell them about Finishing with Grace.  This is a book that  is needed sooner rather than later in a church’s planning.

Please share the news that this helpful guidebook is now available. If youknow of churches that could use our help, email us at  Or refer them to

And thanks!

Email Linda at

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