from Changing Patterns of Ministry (pp. 291-294), Conference 2021
for employment, please also see the Lay Employment Resource

Endings are common to the wide variety of roles in the life of the Church, including employed roles, those undertaken voluntarily, and presbyteral and diaconal appointments. Endings bring with them a sense of loss. Often there is also cause for celebration of what has been achieved and appreciation of the gifts and graces which the particular person has brought to the role. Sometimes endings can be difficult, particularly if there are different views on the timing of the ending and the way in which it has come about.

Members of the Methodist Church are encouraged to reflect on endings in different areas of the Church’s life, and to think about how the ending of a role or piece of work might be handled from the outset, including questions of ongoing pastoral support for the person concerned. There may be particular tensions if someone is likely to remain within the particular community, and also if an extension to an appointment or role is sought but not granted. It is helpful for there to be a period of time (of at least three months and usually a year for ministers) during which the individual has no active engagement in the pastoral ministry of the relevant Local Church(es). This provides an opportunity for everyone to adjust to the new reality.

How an ending is experienced, by an individual and wider community, can be significantly affected by the attention that is given to the different aspects of endings right at the As a matter of good practice it is therefore suggested that there is consideration of the following at the start of any appointment as well as towards the end:

  1. Ensuring clarity about the length of the appointment and terms of service. This will include looking at whether there will be a probationary period and whether there is the possibility of the appointment being extended and, if so, how and when these will be reviewed (for employees see Lay Employment Resource);
  2. Ensuring a good start also includes looking at what kind of induction is needed and offering an opportunity to welcome, maybe within worship (and The Methodist Worship Book contains some services of admission, commissioning and welcome) (for employees see new employee orientation);
  3. A process for an annual appraisal as well as regular supervision. In some appointments, such as Local Lay-Pastors, there should also be regular line management. These are good practice in themselves and also play a part in there being shared understanding of the how the terms of the role are being fulfilled. They provide opportunities to affirm positive aspects of performance in the role, to identify if there is a need for any further support, training or reflection, and to raise any concerns and look at how these might be addressed. They also offer a means of reflecting on the expectations around a role (both of the individual and others)(for employees see Lay Employment Resource);
  4. Offering an exit interview. An exit interview offers an employee (or volunteer appointed to a particular role) the opportunity to reflect on their experience of the role and raise any concerns or things which might not have been easy to say whilst in the It is helpful to give attention as to how this will be handled, who will be responsible for having the conversation, where and how the contents of the conversation may be shared, and whether the person leaving will be accompanied (see exit interview pro forma);
  5. Offering a ‘transitional conversation’. A transitional conversation would be more focussed on the vocation of the individual (whether lay or ordained) and provide an opportunity to explore what the next stage of their ministry might look like and how they are going to transition from one stage of ministry to another. If a person will still be a part of the community then it is also an opportunity to reflect on boundaries and the change in relationships, to consider whether there is a period of ‘rest’ from any responsibilities, and to address issues of power and authority. A transitional conversation may also be a place where issues of loss and bereavement are discussed;
  6. How the ending will be appropriately acknowledged. The way in which an ending will be acknowledged is likely to depend on a variety of factors including what the experience has been like for the individual and church community. It may be appropriate to acknowledge the ending in a liturgical act as well as in more informal ways. In some cases an individual may not wish for an ending to be marked and yet the whole community will be facing an ending and it may be appropriate for there to be some acknowledgement of this. Alternatives could include making a note in the minutes of the relevant meeting;
  7. Whether there should be any ongoing pastoral support and whether there are pastoral matters requiring further attention. This may include attention to issues of power and authority, to changes in relationships and ways of doing things, to interpersonal and role related boundaries, to addressing particular issues and concerns, and to how loss, change and bereavement are handled.

Questions of power and authority often arise when someone ceases a role but is still part of the This can happen in various situations including for supernumeraries and for Local Lay-Pastors and lay employees who are members of the Church (see Recognising power). The need for succession planning in many areas of the Church’s life is also of concern.