There are many reasons you may need to part ways with your church -- some joyous, some not. Rather than simply walking away, ending your association with a formal letter of resignation gives you a chance to explain the motivation behind your decision and head off any misunderstandings before they start.

Give It Some Thought

Your reasons for leaving the church help you decide how to write a letter of resignation. If you have happy reasons -- such as leaving town for a better job or moving on to lead a new church in an area where the need is great -- then your letter should be one of happiness and hope. If your reasons are serious -- for example, you disagree with the church's teachings or you've witnessed practices that disturb you -- then tread more carefully. No matter what the situation, give yourself time to think about what you want to say and what's best to leave out.

Be Upfront

When you're ready to write your letter, get to the heart of the matter. Begin by stating who you are and that you're formally resigning from the church. You may want to write something like, "Please accept this letter as my official resignation from the church of So-and-So." Say why you're leaving. Negative reasons for leaving require more tact. Even if you'd love to fire away about your objections or the personal injuries you've suffered, it's best to write dispassionately and not let your emotions get the better of you. Only you know the details of your situation; whether or not you get personal ultimately is your decision.

Look Back

It's appropriate to share some of your memories of your time with the church. Recall the good moments, cherished memories and the good friends you've made. Losing you as a member or leader may shake the confidence of others, especially in a young church. If you can, be reassuring about the good of the church and its congregation. Briefly revisit the activities in which you were involved or instrumental.

Look Forward

End your letter by explaining what your plan is for the future. This is especially appropriate for leaders of the church. Your congregation likely will want answers and a sense of closure over losing you, particularly if you've been a long-standing presence in the church. Mention if you plan to enter full-time ministry, travel to a war-torn country or simply take time to gather your thoughts. Unless absolutely necessary, don't close the lines of communication between you and the congregation.