This month on Whiteboard Monthly we talk about the importance of Conducting a Health Assessment early on in the transition process - Transition Ministers look at the church from an outside perspective which allows them to identify blindspots that those inside the church cannot see, things that stand in the way of fruitful ministry.
Welcome to the latest installment of whiteboard monthly. My name is Tom Grabil and I'm the transition Ministry Catalyst for Luminex Group. I want to help you appreciate the importance of the transition process during pastoral vacancy.
Now when we refer to this as a 'transition process' instead of an 'interim process,' we are talking about an intentional five-phase approach to helping churches prepare for a new season of church life with the least amount of disruption as possible. Last month we began with phase one: steadying the plane. You can access this video on our website luminexgroup.org. Today we move on to phase two: conducting a health assessment.
Transition ministers look at the church from an outside perspective which allows them to identify blind spots that those inside the church cannot see. Many churches we work with have been experiencing a sharp decline of members. We have come to believe that a church that holds onto yesterday's solutions to solve today's problems, will die a slow death. Therefore churches need to adapt in order to survive and thrive.
Times of transition provide a unique opportunity to do an overhaul Health Assessment to understand whether the church is prepared for change. A pastoral transition signifies a new chapter in the life of a church. A new pastor coming in will have a different style, personality, gifts and passions which he or she lends to this new chapter. To prepare the church to receive a new leader, an assessment of the current health is advised in order to increase Effectiveness in Ministry.
As an athlete undergoes a routine physical at the start of each season, so a church is wise to do so as well. In some cases a doctor will discover a critical issue issues such as a heart defect in a student athlete, that if went untreated, could lead to serious harm and even death. In the same manner, a trained specialized transition Minister will do a routine checkup to assess whether or not aspects of the church need to be attended to before a new leader begins. The health assessment is thorough enough to discover hidden ailments that previously went unnoticed. The keen eye, in an understanding mind, he or she can spot things holding the church back from bearing fruit and accomplishing its mission.
It's common for churches to think a new dynamic Pastor will solve all the church's challenges and promote significant growth. Furthermore, churches often believe that more programs to attract more people is the most important thing to do. They don't realize the blind spots that are working against growth and progress. They have lived with these beliefs and behaviors for so long they assume they are normal and part of who they are. Someone trained to notice certain detriments comes along, helps them see what is holding them back.
While formal assessments that cost money exist, informal cost-free tools are also accessible to a specialized transition Minister for conducting such an organizational audit. He or she will utilize a variety of tools to formulate a preliminary assessment and make recommendations to the leadership board.
Consider trends. Trends show patterns over time. They help point to where the church will be in three to five years if it changes nothing. Examples of trends would include membership growth or decline, giving participation in programs, annual baptisms and age group fluctuations. A specialized transition Minister will also consider structures. They point to what is causing these trends to exist. Adjusting existing structures leverages positive change. Moving forward examples would be leadership structures, staffing structures, Ministry structures and how things are communicated.
They'll also look at demographics, current and projected. Studies draw attention to fruitful missional opportunities for the church, usually looking within a one to five mile radius of the church building.
And finally, statements. Church statements point out a Church's clarity about who they are and what God is calling them to do and be in particular. Specialized transition ministers look for Missions, values and strategy. The goal of this second phase is the transitional period is to assess readiness for change in a rapidly changing culture.
Once the assessment phase is completed, the specialized transition Minister will formulate a snapshot of the church's current reality, identify growth areas and prescribe a plan for vibrant living in the new season of ministry. Three to five goals are drafted and brought to the leadership board for consideration.
Now these goals will formulate some of the ongoing focus for the specialized transition Ministry and leadership team. Over the remainder of the year, the leaders get to weigh in and share input about the accuracy of the assessment results. They can approve any or all of the recommended goals. Often the assessment phase will take place alongside the 'steady the plane,' phase as helpful information will come from formal and informal interviews with groups and individuals.
Some goals will be low hanging fruit that can be accomplished with little effort and short duration. While others may take longer and require more commitment. Getting a clear picture of the needs early in the transition means greater productivity. While the specialized transition minister is present, it can be helpful for a church to establish a transition team when they first learn about their pastor's departure. This team of respected and committed members can devise a transition plan including interviewing specialized transition Minister candidates and making a recommendation to leadership. During the assessment phase, the transition team works with a specialized transition minister to produce the results and develop the recommended goals to the leadership for approval.
This process allows for voices in the system and outside the system to be heard and considered. The assessment phase begins early in the process and lasts about one to two months.
Thank you for tuning in to this installment of Whiteboard Monthly on church transitions. It is never too early to begin to prepare for the inevitable.
Let's begin the conversation by giving me a shout. My contact information is below or can be found on our website go to luminexgroup.org. Thanks for tuning in this week.
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