How To Leave Your Job Well: 9 Questions For Pastors To Answer


Transitions can be wrought with confusion, missed connections, and wasted time. But that’s not the way they have to be. One of the key elements of a successful transition is the transferring of information from the outgoing pastor to the incoming pastor.

If you know that you are leaving your position, take time to answer these questions in writing (or over a cup of coffee if you know the individual who is taking over the role) so that the incoming pastor will not be stepping into a void on their first day.

If you have just been told of an upcoming transition on staff, ask the outgoing pastor to put together a portfolio with the following questions answered, as well as any documents with further detail. Compiling this information can help you as you write an updated job description and candidate profile for the pastor search and provide helpful information for the Interim Pastor.

Even in circumstances where the church wants to take the ministry the exiting pastor led in a different direction, the leadership can use these answers to tell the incoming pastor what not to do. (For a comprehensive guide on pastoral transitions, read Next: Pastoral Succession That Works by William Vanderbloemen).

1. Where is your ministry currently?

In as much detail as possible, communicate the current status of the ministry. Describe the programs that were sponsored by the ministry, who led them, what curriculum they are using and had used in the past. If possible attach any programs or organize materials that the staff member will need to hit the ground running when they start.

2. What was the vision of the ministry under your leadership?

Describe what goals were for the ministry and the steps you were taking to get them accomplished. While the incoming minister may not necessarily follow the same road map, it will be helpful for them to understand the vision that you had laid out.

3. Where has the ministry been?

Write a brief history of the ministry. How it got started, where it was when you inherited leadership and the successes that were achieved along the way. This will give the new staff member a historical understanding of the church, ministry and role.

4. What does a typical week look like? What does your typical week look like?

How many hours do you designate for volunteer management, visitation, sermon prep or material organization? By giving the incoming pastor an idea of what your week looks like, you will help them know where they should start allocating their time and energy.

5. What do you wish someone had told you about the role before you started?

Impart the wisdom that you learned during the time you were in this role and small pieces of practical knowledge that the incoming staff member would appreciate.

6. Who in your ministry needs special attention? Who are the spoken and unspoken leaders in the ministry? Who are the volunteers that are dedicated to service?

In as gracious a way as possible, communicate which individuals will need extra special care and attention. By naming the people that are key players, you are really communicating one of the most important parts of a successful transition and future for the ministry.

7. What programs or special software will this pastor need to familiarize themselves with in order to be effective?

Provide the url’s, user names, and passwords so that the first few days of the new pastor’s tenure won’t be filled with calling help desks and tracking down passwords to vital resources. Ensuring resources are in place and ready to go will go a long way into making sure the new pastor’s first days on the job are not wasted.

8. What are the strengths of this particular ministry? What are the challenges to growing this ministry?

By communicating the strengths and challenges of the ministry you are painting a real life picture for the incoming pastor on where to start.

9. What documents or resources need to be shared with the Interim or Incoming Pastor?

Budget spreadsheets, calendars, permission forms, program templates and any other important (and those you think aren’t so important) documents should be organized and transferred to either the individual that is replacing you or to your immediate supervisor. Spend an hour or two organizing your desktop so files are easily identified, or use a file-sharing program such as drop box. Also, make sure that all paper files are organized and given to the right people.

What other questions do Pastors need to answer for their staff before they leave their position?

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