I see a lot of ‘don’t resign on Monday’ chat for pastors. I don’t know if I’m seeing more because more people are thinking about resigning than before or if I just happen to be seeing more. But there it is, lots of people insisting you shouldn’t plan to resign on a Monday.
I think I understand what they’re driving at. I appreciate that things might look different at the end of the week compared to immediately after a difficult Sunday. I don’t doubt there is real sense in waiting, praying and thinking things through before handing in your resignation.
But it seems to me the issue is not the day you decide to hand your resignation letter in. The issue is really to do with how far you have really thought through and prayed about your resignation. To put it another way, who are all these pastors who have been so hacked off one Sunday that they are determined to resign on a whim on Monday?
Most pastors I have spoken to who have been considering quitting ministry – both those who end up leaving and those who end up staying – are not deciding that on a Monday after one particularly difficult Sunday. They have usually been thinking, praying and talking about it for months and months. Maybe I move in much easier circles, but I hardly know anybody who gets to Monday after one difficult Sunday and determines to quit ministry for real. But I do know lots of people who have endured months, sometimes years, of very difficult behaviour and issues and have been praying and talking it through for many months.
For me, the issue is headed off simply by having Monday as my day off anyway. There are a whole host of reasons we decided, as a family, Saturday was a bad day off for all of us. So, Monday is the day we have landed on that works best. Which means – even when there have been difficult Sundays – Monday is a barrier between whatever went on and having to do anything about it on Tuesday.
But even when I have considered my own resignation, very rarely has that been the product of one bad Sunday. Any time I have felt it might be right to leave has been the result of sustained issues over a protracted period. I can’t think of a time I have ever got to Monday and decided to quit because of something that happened on Sunday alone or even something that happened over the course of one week. It has usually come about when there have been issues that seem to be intractable or that have just been going on for a while. They have sometimes been the result of introspective questioning of whether I am the person to deal with these things, if (as inevitably comes up) I am the cause of them and someone else would manage them better than me, or if I don’t feel I have the wherewithal to press on in the face of them.
Others I know would say something similar. They are not getting to Monday and resigning. They are getting to weeks, months or sometimes years of working in very difficult circumstances, dealing with some very difficult people, whose behaviour in any other area of life would not be acceptable on any level but, for some reason in the church, they are not only tolerated but somehow manage to get their appalling behaviour spun as definitely the pastor’s fault.
In other cases, it is not other people that are the problem. The pastor is worried that he is not up to the task. Maybe his health is taking a hit with all the pressure. Maybe his family is suffering because he does not seem able to meet all the demands of the church and function as a father at the same time. Maybe issues have repeatedly cropped up in church and he is inevitably asking whether he – as a the common denominator – is the cause of them. He is not laying blame with anyone else. He is not even saying these are matters of sin. But he is weighing himself in the balances and finds himself wanting (rightly or wrongly).
But in any case, these decisions are not taken on a Monday. They don’t arise on Sunday morning and come to a head by Monday morning. They have usually built up over time, been prayed about, discussed and the decision to resign reached. I know of very few pastors who are even considering resigning on a whim on Monday.
Of course, if someone is deciding to resign on Monday based on one bad Sunday – unless it is a matter of gross and indisputable disqualifying sin that has arisen – then of course they should not resign on Monday over it. In truth, they probably shouldn’t be resigning any day over it. But if the pastor has been thinking and praying over many months about issues going on, has sought wise counsel, and is still convinced that he should resign, then I’m not really sure what difference doing it on Monday makes given it isn’t the product of one bad Sunday.