Updated: May 17
“As time came closer to our end, we coached them by highlighting what was coming next. The congregation was given the opportunity to prepare for the upcoming change.”
“The success of transition holds so much in hands of the exiting pastor. The incoming leader can have their arrival prepared or sabotaged by how the pastor prepares the way.”
“I know not every leader can transition over an extended period. There is no perfect method. We must consider the needs of the congregation and other leaders, as well as the exiting pastor. A pastor can often have their identity validated by those around them. In this stage a leader must face reality, it is no longer an option. The church must move on, and it is key for the leader to continue to lead this as well—all the way to the end. And God meets us in this, and there we find our place.”
“Humility is the key word that I kept coming back to repeatedly. Hold your tongue at times. Trust the Lord for things to change in His time. No matter the good or bad outcomes, we learn from our choices. No transition is perfect. He needs to remain in control of each next step. Healthy transition takes humility.” As pastors we pour our heart and soul into a congregation. Whether we build from ground zero or assume the momentum of another leader before us, one thing is for sure, we have given fully of ourselves and trusted God for the best. The leader must lead to the very last moment, and beyond in some cases.
Your time is coming— Whether you have had a long time to prepare others for your change or not, there is much going on inside of you and there will be much to process when your last day of active ministry finally comes. Prepare yourself some time after your last service to allow God to unravel and rebuild you for your next season (Content to be addressed in upcoming blog posts).
Do not forget those who remain—Often we are so aware of our own grieving and sadness to our own loss that we can often miss the pain of those who have been faithfully serving and supporting our efforts in ministry. These are life-changing seasons for these leaders who may need your encouragement and comfort as they process your decision and prepare to serve without you. Ask God for the grace to lay aside your pain to love unconditionally and bless those individuals.
Support the future of the church—Regardless of whether you know who your replacement is or not, encourage the congregation to believe and trust God as you do with the future. Full heartedly support who will be carrying on the ministry, whether you agree with everything or not.
Expect your replacement to lead differently and change how the church does things. Don’t be offended, but realize the burden of the church now rests on another who is uniquely ordained to carry on God’s work. It can be difficult to adjust to these kinds of changes, but much wisdom is found in the quote above, “hold your tongue.” The church is used to supporting your leadership, so if you seem critical it can be detrimental to new leadership and the health of the church in the unknown days ahead.
To the extent you’re struggling with frustrations, pray about this and seek out a safe and trusted advisor unrelated to the situation to counsel with. In this way, there is no chance for your negativity to affect others in the church. Remember, you do not have to agree with how the ministry is handled after you leave, but part of letting go is releasing control over to God.
“Well done” are the words from Matthew 25:23 that we want to hear when we cross a finish line in our life. And as we end this blog series, we pray there have been helpful truths caught along the way from the lives of others who have walked through their own transitions.
Proactively caring for the emotional well-being of yourself and those around you will allow you to minimize some of the common negative fall-out that accompanies a transition. Uncertainty and change is a ripe field for misunderstandings, confusion and offenses, so don’t despair when they happen. Remember God is not surprised by these things and He is always working in ways to heal, restore and build. As you navigate out of the ministry you have known, continue to love, teach and encourage those entrusted to you to that finish line. Jesus is the head of the church and the Good Shepherd. His love, character and will is constant, sustaining the lives of those we have served and loved for all the years of ministry—as well as our own. Your ending is also a new beginning.
“Commending his servant, the master replied, you have done well, and proven yourself to be my loyal and trustworthy servant." Because you were faithful to manage a small sum, now I will put you in charge of much, much more. You will experience the delight of your master, who will say to you, “Enter into the joy of your Lord!” (Matthew 25:23, The Passion Translation)
This is the final of a four-part series on transition when you know that your ministry role is ending and insight regarding the practical steps that follow this kind of decision. This series is a compilation of discussions regarding change with Pastors Loren Houltberg, Blaine Herron, and Deb Herron and their experience of transitions in ministry. If you would like to read more blogs from UCentric Solutions LLC click this link Blog | UCentric Solutions
Also, we at Church Solutions we love pastors and want to serve you. We are here for you at any process of your transition, whether it be your own or another situation in your church. If you would be interested in how we can partner with you, set up a free appointment with Craig by clicking here