February 27, 2023

Introducing Transitions

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Our focus for today is on transitions.

Leadership transitions are something that you probably don’t need anyone to tell you about… but things are changing faster all the time. What worked two years ago doesn’t work now and what was simple and understandable a few years ago is now complex and uncertain. The more things change the more critical it is for churches and leaders to make healthy transitions. The reality is too many church leaders don’t realize that change happens but transitions may not. That’s the reality in the churches today, too common in the lives of church leaders. Change is happening but if they’re not making healthy transitions to adjust and maximize to that change.

So this series of whiteboard monthlies will help you understand how to make healthy transitions. Healthy transitions require intentional and consistent attention to the personal and organizational needs to move from the old way to the new way. Healthy transitions happen when people affected also make a good transition from an old way to a new way.  It’s personal and organizational – so you could say that transitions begin with an ending and end with a beginning. In between is a middle ground in which the light at the entrance to the tunnel has faded but there’s no light at the end of the tunnel yet…and as you move through that transition tunnel, there are three specific focal points and specific tasks you need to accomplish at each stage.  This is just as true for groups as it is for individuals so let’s take a little time to look at the transition tunnel.

Think of a healthy transition as a long tunnel when you first enter.  The only light you see is behind you.  At the beginning of the tunnel our focus is backward.  We’re looking back – we’re reviewing, assessing. We’re wrapping up important things.. As you move further into the tunnel, the light behind you fades and you may begin to glimpse some light ahead.  But in the middle of the tunnel it’s mostly just dark. Sometimes it’s really dark.  That’s when our focus is up.  Focused on God, the middle of the tunnel is all about discernment, paying attention to God. God shows you how the task you completed before, as you look backward, have prepared you for more.

To move forward, he may also be clarifying what’s ahead so you enter into evaluation assessment and commitment to doing what God calls you. So when you reach the end of the tunnel, the light is forward. At that point the light reveals a new place. A new position or new work that God has prepared for you. The transition tasks now are making healthy, new beginnings. Learning, communicating, building relationships and at this point you discover how important it is to pay attention to the work at the beginning.

In looking backward, one writer put it this way: the transition mindset that is most productive is one that carries the least baggage from the past. A healthy transition helps to free you of the baggage that would weigh you down or impair your ability to move and follow God.  I add a corollary to that when we enter a transition, it’s important to adopt a mindset of “what got you here isn’t going to get you there.”

That’s the transition. Learning is critical in healthy transitions. Learning about yourself – about your church-  your values, beliefs, talents.  Learning about God’s purposes and his plan for you and learning new ways –  new mental models, new approaches to old problems.

According to leadership expert Dr Bobby Clinton, who studied hundreds of leadership transitions of biblical and historical leaders, a healthy transition can take three or more years.  So what specifically do we do well?  We look back.  While in your current role – wrap up unfinished business, personal relational, organizational and take care of that baggage.  The goal is to be ready to move with as little baggage as possible then look up what’s God doing.  What’s he doing in your life?  What’s necessary to prepare to be moved?  Then look forward how has God’s preparation prepared me for where I’m going.

What are the challenges, the risks and the learnings?  I have to embrace to get engaged in God’s purpose.  Do you think you may be at the start of a transition or maybe in the middle of one?  Or maybe you’re just starting to roll into a new role or in a new place.  We’ll help you with more transition wisdom next month – so join us!

We’re looking forward to seeing you then.  With the Luminex group,  I’m John Messer.

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