Is Your Church Succession-Ready?
By: Holly Tate
Pastoral succession has been a taboo topic for far too long, but the truth is that every pastor is an interim pastor.
As William Vanderbloemen and Warren Bird state in Next: Pastoral Succession That Works,
"Few ministers consider that truth. Few are eager to admit that their time with their present church will one day end...Planning for that day of succession may be the biggest leadership task a leader and church will ever face. It may also be the most important."
Whether you're ready or not, succession is going to happen. Are you ready?
We partnered with Leadership Network this summer to create Succession Readiness: Surveying the Landscape of Large Church Pastors.
Of churches surveyed, 44% are “poor” or “fair” at their succession readiness.
A few key takeways from the report:
- Would the greater the responsibility level for a church with multiple locations create a greater readiness for succession? The answer is no; there is no statistically significant difference.
- The average senior pastor age is 55 for the roughly 1,650 North American congregations running 2,000 and higher in weekly worship attendance.
- During any given year, 3% of megachurch senior pastors are preparing for succession (whether retirement or to move to another ministry).
What are the obstacles that might prevent a pastor from giving a self-rating of “very good” or “outstanding” in our surveys, indicating, “I’m as ready as I should be at this point for succession?”
- Lack of financial preparation
- Lack of comfort in letting go of a church they love
- Lack of dream or calling for what's next
What’s the most important action healthy pastors, who have no pressure to move on, can take to increase their succession readiness?
- Decide and announce general but clear intentions
- Build a church culture that's ready for succession by creating a teaching team
- Develop and equip the leaders on your staff
- Include your succession plan in your performance review with your board and leadership team
Pastors must eliminate the thinking that succession should be equated to retirement planning. Every pastor, regardless of age or tenure, should start thinking about succession now, before it's too late.