The Pope Resigns and Strategic Quitting

For the first time in 600 years, a Pope resigned.

On February 11, 2013, Pope Benedict XVI issued a letter of resignation stating, “After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering.” Click here for the full transcript of his resignation letter.

If the Pope can quit so can you. I am probably not talking about your job; I am definitely talking about ministry programs that aren’t bearing fruit.

Maybe they were fruitful once. Maybe they were fruitful for the guy down the street but never took off in your context. Or, maybe the fruit is dwarfed by the cost. Whatever your reasons for not quitting, let the Pope’s decision inspire you to consider the hidden upside of quitting.

Let’e be honest, nobody likes a quitter and pastors are loath to stop anything that was once done in the name of God. But let’s also keep it real: Jesus gave us a commission to go into all the nations and make disciples. If one of our ministries are using the time, talents, and treasures entrusted to us by God, but not bearing fruit, how will we explain ourselves when we stand before God?

To be clear, I am not advocating reckless abandonment: I am talking about strategic quitting. I propose you consider two economic principals involved in strategic quitting.

1. Sunk costs are the costs that you’ve already put into a project that make it hard to quit. These costs can be complex and dynamic in a ministry setting, but the reality behind sunk costs is that they are, well, sunk–the’re already spent. If the fruit isn’t there, we should consider moving on rather than repeating fruitless activity that continues to burn up more resources that could otherwise be redirected.

2. Opportunity cost counts the cost of an opportunity taken in terms of the value the related opportunity missed. In other words, for every dollar or moment you spend doing one thing, that dollar and moment could have been spent on something else. The value of that something else is the opportunity cost.

Strategic quitting is a part of visionary leadership. The Pope’s decision to resign leads the church forward. He had the maturity to trust his successors and freely yield the reigns of his power. Ultimately, he had the vision to see that a younger and more vital Bishop could be a better fit for the office and that by resigning he could break the calcification of tradition for the sake of his  church and all the Bishops of Rome who will follow him.

Jesus commissions us to makes disciples. Measuring only the success of our strategies (in numbers and dollars) or the busyness of our activities isn’t sufficient. We need to measure the fruitfulness of our ministry and be willing to strategically quit.

What and how can you strategically quit to lead upward? 

FYI…for a five minute podcast on sunk costs and opportunity costs from Marketplace click here.

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Mike Gammill

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree with your 3 must-haves. I would add that the rectors have to call on every member who attends, at least once a year. The existence of a "calling commitee" is just an excuse to avoid making the effort. This is part of #3. If a rector does not like to call on parishioners, then she/he should not be a rector, but should find a different ministry. Carter Kerns, former senior warden, Diocese of Eastern Oregon and lifelong Episcopalian Tel# 541-379-3124
— Carter Kerns
comment_post_ID); ?> Are there any reliable statistics about the percentage of church plants that fail after 3 years in the US?
— Jon Moore
comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
— Glenna Hendricks

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