Stuff to keep

The letter I sent to staff today:

So I wanted to update you on a big change for me and my family. This ain’t public info yet, so please keep it to yourself as I work on informing people as time permits. 

I am taking a job at Ultrex, being the IT Manager and managing a team of IT staff and supporting a variety of companies, non-profits, and churches doing the same thing I’ve done at Morning Star, just for many more.

This is not where I thought this decision would end up, but God really seemed to open doors and create an opportunity that I believe can lead to good good things for me and my family. I know that more good can come for this church that I love more than I can clearly convey. It’s for a job where I’ll be unleashed to “live to serve” many people with as much as I can help. They’ve also changed the role even from my first discussion with them to perfectly match my gifting and desires of what I love to do (think fixing problems and serving people, not selling services and pushing contracts).

I don’t have an exact timeline for leaving yet, I’ve accepted the position, but I really want to set Morning Star up well, and figure out how I can leave the church with the best transition plan. I’ll be talking with John and working through that over the coming week. 

Natalie and I will still be at Morning Star- this is still our home. I still want my kid running around on Sundays, I’ll still be leading my small group. But as I looked at doing IT at Morning Star or IT at Ultrex, both would be jobs, and my calling with either would be as it always has for Natalie and I- change the world by changing high school students in Salem Oregon. So my mission field still happens on Wednesday and Sunday nights, and I’ll be excited to attend church with my family, and let my job be a job. (Hopefully one I really enjoy and feel valued and needed in, but what a light load for it to just be a job).

I believe for Morning Star in this next season. Someone I love greatly recently said that her greatest dream for Morning Star is “health.” And as odd as it seems, I do think that me leaving can pave the way for greater and greater health. I know that I, me, Jim- I was never the core thing that made this place great- God wasn’t lacking before I arrived, and He won’t be lacking after. And I have full faith that our church will serve Jesus, make Him known, and I can’t wait to see that happen but from a different view.

You can certainly be praying for me, this is big leap, a big change, and Morning Star was incredibly comfortable. I’m overwhelmed, overjoyed, and terrified. But I trust that if God swung the doors this wide open, I only have to be faithful to the next step. And when I get there, He’ll illuminate the step after for me then.

Thanks for loving me well, my wife well, and my baby well. And definitely this wraps up a job, but not a friendship. The team I’ve worked with has been the single greatest, most amazing collection of people I could possibly foresee working with. And I expect to make up for lost office-time with dates, hangouts, kid play-dates, and more. I know your love for me was never because of who signed my paycheck, and I value your friendship more than every check I’ve ever had combined- thanks for being such an amazing group of friends, on top of co-workers in Christ.

I love you, I’m thankful for you, and I look forward to many more memories we’ll still make together.


The letter I sent to my boss:


So this is a hard letter to write, and one I certainly did not foresee. I meant every word I texted yesterday- you, and your love for me, my family and this church body- that’s why I’ve still been here for as long as I have. I feel incredibly grateful for the chance to have served Jesus in this place with you- and the incredible group of people that have been called to serve in this place.

Your offer when we met to remove me from some of the roles that put me in a conflict of interest with my conscience was kind and generous and far more than I deserve. I had truly thought that meant that the conflict was averted and was thrilled to settle on staying at Morning Star.

Then I met with the boys from Ultrex. And I’ll be honest, I felt courted, woo’d and wanted. I’d had some reservations about the job- things that had made it less appealing and not my dream. Obviously, the pay was appealing, but I’d been forced to see that aside from the pay the job was 50/50 if I’d burn out or like it for very long. But they offered to re-write the terms of my role and responsibilities to exactly conform to who I am and what I was made to do. No more selling, worrying about growing the business and contracts, but just serving people by fixing problems for as many organizations as I choose to allow us to take on there.

“I live to serve.” It actually came from my father growing up to my mom- I was too young and too literal to understand he was saying it sarcastically before I’d already decided that it would be the phrase that would define my life. It’s one of the most sincere and honest-about-who-I-am things that I say.

As I processed the now modified roles at both places, I realized that both would just be jobs. I’d be doing a job of IT and Comms at Morning Star. And I know I’d enjoy it. And at Ultrex I’d be doing IT, just for many more people. I also harbored the knowledge that deep down, I know that Morning Star needs IT to do what it does, but it doesn’t need a full time IT guy. We just aren’t that size, and don’t have those aspirations that would require it. So when I was thinking of what Katrina was dreaming for this place- “health” – me being happy to keep my job and pay with a more limited role- that’s not health. I want people in the church to be unleashed, free’d, unshackled in their all-in service of Jesus and others. And sadly, I think there’s an indefinite timeline before I’d be able to serve unleashed in this place. One day, it might even be a thing that God might call me home to serve vocationally, but Morning Star is still home. I’ll still know that serving at RIOT is my calling, and doing IT at Morning Star or Ultrex would just be the job. So as just an IT guy, Ultrex needs me more, has more people for me to serve, and will let me live to serve all-in.

I didn’t mean to lie to you, and I feel terrible that I sent the text to you with my decision before I went to meet the guys. I really thought I was meeting just to thank them for the opportunity and help them to craft a better offer for the next guy. Instead God swung the door wide open, changing my plans, upending what I thought the right answer here was.

I’ll lament what could have been, but not for one moment do I regret my time here. I LOVE Morning Star. I LOVE you, Scott, the team that makes up the staff- I am fully aware that no where I will work will possibly love me the way I have been loved in this place. I will miss this place being my office and not only my church. But between the two, it’s most important function in my life has always been that this is the house of God I get to serve in for this season. But long after I work here, I’ll be serving here in RIOT, coming on Sundays to hear the word of God preached boldly and with love, and reveling in the friendships that remain even once my paycheck is signed by someone else.

I’m going to meet with you later today, to talk about the timeline, hardware, vacation- how best to leave and serve this place well and honor this place well in my departure. I want to end well, honor this place and the investment in me that it has made.

Thank you for being you. It is through tears right now I write how much I respect and appreciate your leadership, your integrity, and your compassion for each staff member. It has been a great highlight of my life to serve Jesus in this place with you, and I know in advance I’ll be heartbroken one day as the next phase of Morning Star unfolds, to even ponder what could have been. But I want to do what’s right for this place right now, contribute to its health now, so that one day God can bring that next phase of this place to fruition.

With overwhelming gratitude,

Jim Smith