In our first post and second post in this series, we considered the initial process of determining when it is time to step away from active ministry and consider who and when to inform initially. The next step is planning the transition.
“After a time of settling, it went from feeling the change to making a strategy for change. An exit plan for us was necessary. We began to fine-tune details of the work and how it was to be done. We didn’t know who would take over, so we created an outline of our work so the next leader would know what to do. I immediately started looking for capable people. I functioned as a coach for my final months.”
“I needed a timeline. I feel pastors need a timeline. Many times we suppress and put off what needs to happen, but seeing a timeline ahead of us can help us to think about it…even to remember to think about it. That way we can look at it much more as a legacy instead of just an ending of service.”
“When you lead anything for a specific amount of time, processes and even team efforts tend to surround your personality as a leader. Making a plan for change that informs the leaders around you became a primary way to communicate safety for those who remained. I worked hard on making my exit an opportunity for others to be celebrated and trusted in new ways. To honor the hard work around me and allow for new voices and perspectives to bring change that only other leaders could. My efforts from the past weren’t negated, they evolved into a platform for others to gain experience and grow the ministry in fresh ways.
“The time was taken to process my change, now it was time for me to think of the needs of the church. It was time for change for the church (not only me) and I needed to lead that to prepare the way for new leadership.” When a pastor makes a plan for transition, one of the primary reasons for this effort is not only to inform others what is happening, but it also to communicate safety that important issues are being considered and covered. Whether a permanent replacement is brought in immediately or an interim leader, the congregation can be reassured by the exiting pastor’s focus on thoughtfully considering individuals and processes that could be managed without them. As one leader above commented on the importance of a timeline, when a ministry leader is so connected to the daily tasks of the ministry, he or she may never begin the work of separating themselves from the outcome. So how do we start?
Make a list of what needs to be done. Start with each day of the week. Even if you do not have a highly annotated calendar or chore list, just start writing down what you are doing each day.
Offload your list with someone. Walk through the details of your your work with someone else, so they can document these in detail. Choose one good listener who can translate your daily efforts. The goal is to get what is “inside your head” into a format another could use. No one will ever do things exactly like you, but it does help others to know how you cared for and managed the various aspects of the church. It gives another leader a sense of how they can bring continuity themselves or what kind of assistance they may need from others.
Start from your last day and work backwards. The objective is to include yourself less and less in the functions of your position as your timeline progresses. Usually this will start with full training with others which requires your direct, extensive involvement. As you move forward increasingly, you will need to reduce the scope of work that up to now naturally fell to you; yet stay available for questions. As you near the end, focus on pushing back all work to others; encouraging those involved to use the resources available to them for decision-making. This process gives your immediate replacements (and others if applicable) a chance to build confidence and yet feel the support from their leader.
This planning stage is critical to a positive transition experience for the church, which requires a significant amount of energy given to the success of those people empowered to replace us with the work of the ministry. This is a unique place for a leader who has spent most of his or h
er time fully immersed and at times overwhelmed with all that they are now giving away. It is a time to focus on what the congregation will need, as well as those leaders taking our role. (It is not an easy season for the exiting pastor but an important one in the life of the church. A leader who stays invested in this process is one who will see a legacy of vision passed on knowing that others have not been hindered from doing well in the season ahead for the church.
We will cover more on the personal challenges pastors face in living out the transition process in the final post of this series.
This is the third 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 are here for you at any process of your transition. If you would be interested in how we can partner with you, set up a free appointment with Craig by clicking here