There. I said it. And I’ll say it again. I. Resign.
Nearly 40 years after starting at WCSG, I’m turning in the keys and hanging up the headphones. Yep. Walking away and moving in a different direction; finding a new challenge. Yep…I’m, resigning; leaving on top as it were. Yep…I’m resigning…
Ya know, rarely will you hear someone say of a colleague, “That person left too soon.” On the other hand, you’ve more likely to hear a colleague say, “That person stayed too long.” God forbid that’s me, I confess, there are days I feel like I’m bestowed “token homage” – like the grandpa hanging around trolling leftovers or the religious guy who’s asked to pray before the drunken party breaks out at a relative’s wedding. And so, I have decided that while I still love what I do, I’m walking away.
In truth, I am not resigning from WCSG, but I do wonder on occasion…when, when do I step away? I know I’m replaceable (I’m told we all are), but that still doesn’t answer the question. So, if you don’t mind, humor me as I do some self-therapy trying to answer the question of when to say when.
In no particular order, “When I leave, I will be sure to…
- Leave with respect. Titles are given, but respect is earned. Maya Angelou said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” When my day comes, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, I hope I leave well with respect from my colleagues and for my colleagues.
- Leave with strength. I suspect it’s hard, but I suspect it’s also okay to leave when things are going really well. As much as I want to stay and keep the team and station winning, God forbid I come to a point of crash and burn and leave angry, or frustrated, or disenfranchised. When I leave, I hope it’s with strength to take on the next adventure for me, and strength for the station to do the same.
- Leave with honesty. When my best friend and colleague, Lee Geysbeek, left after 34 years of serving at WCSG, he left knowing he led well. He also knew he was not the person to lead us forward, and so he stepped away. That takes honesty, and it takes courage. I believe in very few either/or scenarios, but this is one of those where I do: if I’m not the person to lead, I need to either a) get help or b) get out of the way.
- Leave with clarity. For whatever reason I leave, it should be clear why I’m leaving. There are several reasons for separation: from the somewhat obvious inappropriate or unprofessional behavior to the rather ambiguous “the station is moving in a different direction.” For personal or professional reasons, why I’m leaving when I do may be a mystery to other staff, but it should not be so for me. It’s not wrong to ask, “Why?”
- Leave with peace. I don’t know this for sure because I haven’t left, but I’m guessing the more I invest in where I am, the harder it will be to leave. My roots here are deep. When the time comes, I ought to sense what the Bible calls peace that passes understanding. It may not make sense – sometimes walking by faith doesn’t. But especially if the departure is voluntary, I should have and behave as one who has peace.
- Leave with direction. Maybe you’ve given the same speech I’ve given to my kids – don’t leave your current job until you have another job to go to. This is not to undermine the value of faith. There are times when a departure is clear and imminent, but the destination is not. Leaving without purpose is not a good thing; moving forward with purpose is.
- Leave with my identity intact. I am not what I do, I am who I am. That bears repeating. I am not what I do, I am who I am. I am not WCSG, I am Chris Lemke. I am not family-friendly, I am Christ-follower in process. I am not an executive director as much as I am an ambassador Jesus Christ my Savior. I am who I am not because of what I do, but because of who I am in Jesus Christ.
- Leave with a legacy. Taking inventory of how I’ll be remembered is daunting, scary, and humbling. I want my work to be remembered well, but even more, I want to be remembered well. In my opinion, a good legacy accomplishes both by capturing the essence and evidence of who I am and what I did long after I’m gone.
- Leave with work undone. I need to realize that better work will go on after I’m gone. As commendable as completing projects and goals is, I need to make sure there is vision and mission for the future growth of the organization and those continuing to serve after I’m gone. This leads me to one final point.
- Leave with succession. I loved my dad for a lot of reasons, but I really loved watching him pour himself into his work as our small town’s law enforcement, fire chief, EMT, superintendent and council member. After his passing over a decade ago, the town named a street after him. He did everything in town and for the town…except groom a successor. Only a few years later, the town is literally crumbling. As much as I am allowed to contribute to the process, I will not make that same mistake.
I had lunch last week with a dear friend and mentor. When I asked,“When do you say when?” he summarized it by suggesting that when it’s time for me to step away and when it’s within my ability and choice to do so, there should be two equal voices: one voice pushing me out of where I am, and one voice simultaneously pulling me in to where I’m going – one voice pushing me away from the regular, familiar, habitual, comfortable place and the other voice at the same time pulling or drawing me into an inspiring, aspiring, challenging and hopeful place.
I’m not there yet. I’m still young(ish) and I by God’s grace, still have 15-16+ years yet to give. May God give me, and each of us, the wisdom to know when, or when not to say when it’s time to leave.
Executive Director, WCSG
Chris Lemke serves in leading the mission and vision for Cornerstone University’s radio ministry of WCSG, one of the most successful Christian radio stations in the country. Both Chris and CU’s broadcast ministries have received numerous top honors from the National Religious Broadcasters, Christian Music Broadcasters and Radio & Records.
He began his career in 1980 at WCSG while enrolled as a freshman of Cornerstone University. Over the years, he served as on-air host, program director and WCSG’s general manager. Outside of Grand Rapids, Chris has taught sessions at national industry conferences, written articles for industry trade publications and presently serves on the board of directors for the Christian Music Broadcasters (CMB). He served on the Board of Directors for Grand Canyon Broadcasting from 2006-2009, and continues to provide guidance and coaching for other Christian stations around the country.
In 2019, Chris was awarded CMB’s Industry Achievement Award in 2019 and WCSG was honored as the Gospel Music Association’s Contemporary Christian Music Station of the Year. Chris was awarded CMB’s Station Manager of the Year for CMB 2009 and was a final nominee for Distinguished Broadcaster of the Year from the National Religious Broadcasters in 1999.
He and his wife, Sue were married in August 1987 and are the proud parents of six children and one grandchild. They attend Bella Vista Church in Rockford where Chris serves as an elder. He enjoys traveling, cooking, gardening and long walks.