Suggestions for When a Pastor Leaves

Step One

The first step in the transition process is when a pastor leaves.

The first thing to do is meet with a member of the synod’s pastoral staff to review the process for calling a new pastor.

What is included?

The initial transition into the interim period includes three components:

1. Meeting with a member of the synod pastoral staff (associate to the bishop)

     • Review of congregation council congregational exit tasks

          a.) Exit interview with pastor
          b.) Farewell to pastor

     • Name the issues to be addressed in the transition period
     • This transition packet reviewed with congregation council
     • Review of available resources

2. Supply Pastors to meet basic needs while Interim Pastor is selected

     • Supply pastors can be any pastor on synod pulpit supply list
     • Supply pastor is paid hourly or by pulpit supply guidelines
     • Tasks include preaching, worship leading, basic pastoral care

3. Interim Pastor Installed by a member of the synod pastoral staff

     • Consultation with the synod office regarding interim needs
     • Interim pastoral candidates interviewed by congregation council
     • Interim contract and compensation negotiated by council

Interim Pastor is installed at worship by member of the synod pastoral staff.
In some cases, an extended contract with a supply pastor may be in place of or precede a trained/called interim. This may be either full or part-time.

Here are some resources to help:

Things you should know when a pastor leaves:

As Pastor__________________ leaves, the Council decided it was appropriate to pass on the following information to the congregation during this transition time:

"When a pastor leaves a congregation it is not appropriate for him/her to continue to function in the pastoral role. This is sometimes difficult for people to comprehend.

A pastor should not be asked to do this or that baptism or funeral or wedding. If a pastor does a funeral for Jane Doe because she was so special, why not do a baptism for Sam Smith? Sam is special too.

A pastor should not continue in any counseling relationship with a parishioner.

It is not appropriate for the pastor to be involved in any way in the call process or to comment on a particular candidate"

This is especially important to remember when Pastor__________________ leaves. A line needs to be drawn clearly so that people know he/she is no longer our pastor. While this is painful, it must be done. The Church Council fully supports his/her in this decision, and anyone of us are willing to discuss this with you in more detail if you need further clarification.


  • come back to do funerals or weddings or baptisms
  • come back to lead worship services**
  • visit you in the hospital
  • accept appointments with you**

**The exception to this is that he/she can be invited back as a "former pastor" to help celebrate special events (e.g. anniversaries).

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A Sample Service of Farewell and Godspeed

When a Pastor Leaves a Congregation

[to be placed after the Post Communion Prayer and before the closing hymn]

Farewell and Godspeed for____________________________

Pastor: You and I have been partners in the mission of _____________________ Lutheran Church for________ years. It is now time to give thanks for the life we have shared in Christ. It is also time for us to say goodbye as the Spirit has called me into a new ministry, as ____________________.

I have found our time together rewarding and memories of what we have shared will always be precious to me. You have taught me so much and I am grateful to God for our time together.

People: The Lord is loving to everyone; God's compassion is over all God's works. All your works praise you, O Lord, and your faithful servants bless you. (Psalm 145:9-10)

Pastor: Let us thank God for these years of partnership in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Pastor and People: We give you thanks for your goodness and loving kindness to us and to all people. For our partnership in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, for the Spirit that has empowered us to witness, we give you praise. In the name of the Creator, Savior, Spirit God we pray. Amen

Pastor: Dear friends, you have allowed me to share the responsibilities of the ordained ministry in your midst. At the beginning of our ministry, you presented me with symbols expressing my special role among you. It is time for me to return to you what you have lent me. I was called among you to baptize. Here is water which symbolizes God's gift of belonging in Christ.

(A vessel of water is given to a lay leader)

People: There is one Lord, one faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of us all.

Pastor: I was called among you to proclaim the Good News. Here is the Bible that expresses this call.

(A Bible is presented to a lay leader)

People: Thanks be to God for the Good News of Christ.

Pastor: I was called among you to lead worship and preside at Holy Communion. Receive now this chalice as a symbol of our worship life.

(A chalice is presented to a lay leader)

People: Taste and see that the Lord is good.

Pastor: I was called among you to teach. Here is Luther's Small Catechism which represents this call.

(The Small Catechism is presented to a confirmation student)

People: Thanks be to God for the life-giving Word.

Pastor: And now, it is time for me to say farewell. I ask that in your love and commitment, you send me forth with a blessing. People: We send you forth with our blessing. The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord look upon you with favor and give you peace both this day and forever. Amen.

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