Pastors: How To Care For Your Family Through Seasons Of Transition

Caring for family shadows transition

We all go through seasons of transition in our lives. Change is part of God’s plan for our lives to strengthen us and ultimately molds us to become more like Him. In other words, life transitions are our “Heavenly Sandpaper.” If navigated well, a transitional period can be extremely beneficial and leave you a stronger and more adaptable church leader.

If you’re a senior leader or Pastor of a church, navigating transition well is even more important. The strength of your church, but more importantly your family, cannot afford to be neglected during a season of pastoral growth or change.

Here are 9 tips for Pastors caring for their family members during a season of transition:

1. Seasons of growth don’t have to be seasons of stress.

In seasons of stress and transition, seek God for strength and remember to lead with grace. Reach out to your support system at work and at church, as well as your family. Showing vulnerability as a senior leader is commonly overlooked, but in fact it is incredibly important to the well-being of your church body. If you are honest and forthright to your family and church body about your struggles, others will feel comfortable doing the same. Seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness. It is through the support of God and others that we are able to climb life’s mountains.

2. All change involves loss.

Saying “Yes” to new things means that you are saying “No” to others. Be prepared for how this will make you feel. When faced with a difficult pastoral transition, it’s important to expect hardship on either side of the path. As a Senior Pastor, you will need to make these decisions considering their long-run effect on the health of your family.

Some transitions, like moving to a new Senior Pastor position at a different church, can mean loss of friends or moving away from friends or family. While this may be unpleasant, it may also be necessary. Give yourself permission to grieve and rely on God’s perfect plan for your family, even if it’s not immediately apparent.

3. Not everyone is as adaptable as others.

People don’t resist change; they resist being changed.Tweet: People don’t resist change; they resist being changed. @vanderbloemensg #leadership

Be mindful of this. For some of us, we feel excited about transition and change in general. For others, we dread even the idea of it. Some church body members may be opposed to a pastoral transition, which should be expected. Be patient with loved ones during times of transition.

4. Don't mistake mourning for resentment.

It's okay for you or your family to be sad after a big move or transition. As I mentioned, all change is a form of loss. It's possible for them to be sad about missing people or things without holding it against you. This is where intentional communication becomes key, both with your family and your congregation.

If you are transitioning to a new Lead Pastor position, it may be tempting to take full responsibility for the feelings of the congregation you are parting with. However, it is not your job to fulfill every wish of your congregation. Trust that God is calling you elsewhere for a reason and will see your transition through to the end.

5. Give yourself and those around you time to process.

Your family may not react to the decision well, but over time they may see that it is a good next step. Once again, lead with grace.

6. Be mindful.

Watch for concerns that your loved ones may internally sustain without verbalizing, in an effort to show you support. Check in with them periodically to ensure that they are not feeling overwhelmed and internalizing harmful feelings, reservations, or resentments.

7. Make a “100 Day” plan.

Remember that if you are moving your family for your career, your spouse is likely left with the task of pulling up roots and then reestablishing in a new setting. This takes time. One thought might be to make the first 100 days as a Senior Pastor a time where you move first (ahead of the family) to allow more time for the "root canal" for the rest of your family.

During that first 100 days, you will likely have more work demands than normal, so rather than leaving your family in a new home, new town, alone while you break into your job, you could ease the pain of the process with some commuting and a slow move for your family during those initial months.

8. Make time for your family and the move.

Pre-plan for the physical transition of moving by telling your employer that you will need some time off work when your family eventually does make the move. It should become your top priority to help them get settled. They will most likely not have “built in” friends like you will on your new church staff, so there could be stress around that for both your spouse and children, who will also be making new friends and finding a new church home.

9. Always pray.

Prayer is what sustains us in times of transition. Senior Pastors have the responsibility to be an example of steadfast faith even in tough times. While no Pastor is perfect, the way they may act in a difficult season is indicative of their ability to lead. This is why turning to God is so important. When we accept that there is someone else in charge that we can turn to for help, it can help ease our burden, both mentally and emotionally. 

Are you currently in a season of pastoral transition? How can you better lead your church body and family through the change?

If you liked this, you’ll also enjoy Your 3-Step Guide To A Successful Church Transition