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Transitions Include Saying Goodbye, by Tim Olson

Dec 28th, 2009 | By | Category: Missions Coaching - Guest Posts

timolsonface1Missionaries are always coming and going, starting new things, going through stages of life, and in short, seeming to always be going through transitions. They may not have any more transitions than other people, but theirs are likely to be bigger and exasperated by the fact of their cultural circumstances.

I have had many fun “Aha” moments when teaching about transitions. Perhaps the most surprising is the importance of recognizing that transitions normally include something that comes to an end. Since we are usually focused on the pain, discomfort or excitement of making a change, we don’t often pay much attention to whatever had been.

I have found it helpful in coaching missionaries through transitions that how we say goodbye to the former things may significantly determine our ability to navigate the transition and the success of what will be. This is true for ending jobs, activities and especially relationships. Here is a possible ‘goodbye’ process to use in coaching a client.

1.     Identify and clarify what is/was not working and say good-bye to each thing. Be specific. For example, I’m saying goodbye to you always being late, or to the unreasonable hours I’ve had to keep.

2.     Identify what did work and let it go. For example, I’m saying goodbye to our fun Friday movie nights, or compliments I got regularly from the team, or the best friends we ever had.

3.     Name what dream or other outcome will not happen for them now that this activity or relationship is over. For example, I’m saying goodbye to being part of finishing that translation, or seeing our church plant develop into a strong body.

4.     Name what was learned and will be useful in the next situation or relationship. For example, I learned that my way may not really be the only way, or that I need a relationship with more clearly stated expectations, or my family must get more of my time.

5.     Use the conclusions above to embrace the activity or relationship for its contribution to your life as you now move into the change and acceptance of new ways or new people. This is a conscious choice to believe that God really does allow all things to work together for good. Romans 8:28.

Purposefully dealing with the end of things helps to bring closure and tends to make a person more effective, intentional and even empowered to move on through the next stages of the transition process.


Located in New Hope, Minnesota, Tim Olson has his own business as a personal life coach after years as a pastor, teacher, school principal, business owner and missionary. In addition, for 1/5th of his time, he serves as a leadership coach for the National Fathering Ministry staff both in the US and in Ukraine. Tim received his training in the Christian track of Institute for Life Coach Training, is a member of Christian Coaches Network and co-founded Mission Coaches Network. For more, see

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