The uncertainty that often occurs when a ministry is going through a leadership transition tends to drain positive energy and raises doubts about the future of that ministry. While much of this doubt will usually be unspoken, the reality is that if it is not intentionally addressed, it will cause the ministry to lose considerable momentum.
One of the most positive ways to instill hope in the midst of transition is to seek a skilled and experienced transition pastor to provide the leadership that will help the ministry move forward to a positive future. Typically the season for a transition minister will cover 12 to 18 months. This should not be seen as a time of “getting by,” but rather as a time to assess the health of the ministry while engaging leaders in important conversations about bedrock beliefs, core values, and emerging vision for the ministry. This will help inform the search process to have a clearer understanding of the next leader God has prepared for that ministry.
It has been my privilege to have served several congregations during times of leadership transition. What I have learned and experienced over and over again is that in the role of transition pastor, I had the opportunity to help bring hope into often difficult and troubled situations. Lots of different dynamics are happening during a leadership transition. Some people are grieving deeply the loss of a leader they very much appreciated. They need someone to listen to them and care about their loss. Others are anxious and spread doubts about the future of the ministry. They need a “less anxious” presence to keep the conversations headed in a positive and healthy direction. Depending on the nature of the departure of the previous pastor there can be a need to rebuild trust in pastoral leadership.
This past summer the team of transition pastors I am privileged to supervise had the opportunity, along with a few other leaders, to meet with George Bullard, a highly recognized church consultant and esteemed author. In the midst of our discussions, George was clear that in his vast learning through serving hundreds of congregations as an outside consultant, he is convinced that transition ministry holds the best opportunity to help a congregation revitalize their ministry. This only further convinced me that transition ministry is vital work and requires well experienced and skilled leaders.
Maybe your ministry is facing a leadership transition, and you should give serious consideration to finding a skilled transition pastor to lead you through this important time. Or maybe you are a pastor who has just the right experience and skill to do this important work. I say pray over this and find the right people to help you explore the path forward. Maybe God will use you to bring hope to congregations going through leadership transition.
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