The Painful Process of Letting Go

I love being a middle school pastor! At this point in my life, there’s nothing else I’d rather do. I love the variety of tasks involved, I love seeing students’ energy and excitement, and I love sharing special moments with them during a critical part of their lives.

Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock/luismolinero

There is one small part of my job that I consistently dislike: Graphic design. So, you know what? I got permission to pay a graphic designer to do all that stuff for me. Graphic design issues: Done. Outsourced. Passed on to someone else. Move on. Next task.

There is, however, another BIG part of my job that I dislike even more: Transitions.Saying goodbye to students once they leave middle school for high school. Letting go.

Guess what? You can’t outsource that task.

I hand off a class of 8th grade students to our high school ministry every single year. The transition is difficult every single year. I’ve had three chances to practice over the past three years, and I’m still not used to it.

I’m staring at another 8th grade transition in a few short months. I’m torn.

On the one hand, I’m excited for those students to move on to high school and continue to grow. On the other hand, I feel attached after sharing life with them for the past 18 months. You really get to know someone when you sit next to them on a sweaty bus at 3 am during an all-night event. And soon, POOF! They’ll be gone. It’s kind of like a less-complicated version of breakup. It’s hard to let go after you’ve been close.

Sure, I’ll stay in touch with some of the students. But it’s never the same.

I wish it was easier. Maybe after I experience a few more transitions I’ll know how to handle it.

For now, I choose to embrace the difficulty. The alternative is to not allow myself to get attached, to keep my distance, and not pursue students. That would make for a much easier transition but that’s also a boring, lifeless approach to life and ministry.

The pain of the transition is proof that good stuff happened. Dr. Seuss nailed it when he said, “Don’t cry because it’s over; smile because it happened.”

My annual transition with students, I tell myself, is just a taste of what it must be like for a parent to let go of their child around age 18. I can’t imagine.

Honestly, deep down I don’t like the transition to high school because I’m afraid I won’t matter to these students anymore. I’m afraid they’ll move on to bigger and better things and forget about me. I’m guessing there are similar fears attached to parenting soon-to-be adults.

Despite my fears and insecurities, I’m committed to being ALL IN. I’ll pour every ounce of wisdom, attention, and love into students during the time God allows me to influence them. I’ll gladly deal with the painful process of letting go if that’s the price for living and loving well.