8 Questions Pastors Must Ask Before Announcing Their Succession
By: Holly Tate December 10, 2019
If you are considering a transition in your personal ministry, stop and reflect on these eight questions before you move forward to ensure that you are setting up your church, yourself, and your family for a healthy transition.
1. Why am I transitioning?
Before a pastor makes a transition, he should have clarity on the reason he making the transition. Is he running away from something? Is he running to something? Or is this a healthy transition into a new season of personal growth and development? If the pastor feels confused about the transition, then he might be transitioning during a season of emotional and spiritual burnout, which can be dangerous to his long-term vocational ministry.
2. What am I transitioning to?
A directionless pastor will have a directionless church. Once the pastor feels confirmation that it is time to transition, he should have a direction for where he is headed after the transition. This might be a calling to a different church or a different position. This might be a transition out of ministry long-term and into another profession. This might be a pastor transitioning from burnout and into a season of healing. Regardless what the transition is, it is important for the pastor’s emotional and spiritual health that he have a vision for what he is transitioning into.
3. Who needs to know before the public does?
When it’s time to announce his transition, the pastor should be strategic about who he tells first. This will likely be different depending on the church’s polity. At some churches, the pastor will first tell the chairman of the board. At other churches, he must report to denominational leadership. Healthy transitions include a healthy communication plan.
4. Who needs to know, and when do they need to know it?
Once the pastor informs the proper leadership channels, they can work together to create an intentional communication plan for the transition announcement. Church leadership must create a plan of how the staff, key volunteers, and church community at large will learn of the transition.
5. How much do they need to know?
The pastor and church leadership must also be in alignment as to what the transition announcement will include. This will be different depending on the reason of the transition (moral failure, retirement, church split, etc…), but it is vital that church leadership is on the same page about the transition messaging.
6. What is my timeline going to be?
Before announcing the transition, the pastor should know what his timeline is going to be. How long will he stay on staff after the announcement is made? Will he need to fulfill any pastoral obligations that he has committed to after the date of the transition?
7. How am I going to tell the church?
Once the staff and leadership know about the transition, the pastor should plan for how he is going to tell the church. If the pastor is at a large church with multiple worship services or campuses, I recommend filming a video of the announcement and sending it to the church community so that everyone has the opportunity to hear it at the same time. This might not work in every church culture, so be conscious of your context as you plan. If the pastor is going to share the news from the pulpit, he must decide if he is going to make the announcement or another church leader? The care by which the church handles the heaviness of the transition announcement can set the tone for a healthy pastor search process replacing the outgoing pastor.
8. Does my family feel cared for?
The pastor’s family is transitioning along with the pastor, so the pastor and the church leadership should ensure the family feels cared for during the transition time. Are they included in conversations about what’s next? Do they know the timeline for the transition? The pastors who make their families a priority during the time of transition will experience a much smoother transition overall.
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