Your 3-Step Guide To A Successful Church Transition
The absolute, hands-down best part of my job is working with candidates. I get to come to work everyday and view the Kingdom from different sets of eyes.
One of the benefits of working with many different candidates is the ability to learn from their examples. Transitioning into a new role on a church staff can be a very stressful and trying process, and the knowledge that comes from their tangible experience can be a tremendous help.
If you follow Vanderbloemen Search Group on social media (check out our twitter and facebook), you’ll have noticed the book on Succession Planning by William Vanderbloemen that was recently published. While this book focuses specifically on the process of senior pastor succession, we also want to offer advice and assistance in any type of role transition you are going through. Regardless of the position, transitioning into a new job is a huge step for all involved.
I reached out to a few of our previous candidates that we have placed in various represented churches across the country to see if they had any sage insight about the topic of transitions, from simplytransitioning off of church staff, to moving your family across the country to join a new movement, and everything in between. I think the biggest takeaway from reading their insights is that this is an emotional experience. Leaving a position, whether a good situation or a poor one, has feelings, memories, and friendships dwelling underneath.
In light of that, here is a 3-step guide to help make your transition a healthy experience for you and for your family every step of the way.
1. Trust in God’s timing.
“It should go without saying, but maintaining a close walk with the Lord is absolutely non-negotiable. Sometimes we can get ahead of ourselves or become anxious because we are just ready to be done with the process. That’s dangerous. You are on the precipice of committing yourself and your family to this particular ministry for the long haul. Make sure that it is the right fit. For me, it was clear from the first face-to-face [interview] that Central Christian Church was a good fit.” -Matt Dumas, Central Christian Church (Lancaster, CA)
Across the board, our Vanderbloemen friends echoed a similar sentiment of patience and trust. I feel it’s fitting to start with this admonishment to remain close to His heart as He leads both you and the church. Friends, remember: He is always good. That never changes.
2. Bring your family into the decision process.
Speaking from a more personal experience, my senior pastor here in Houston experienced God’s wisdom through the words of his own daughter. He had felt lost in his decision to leave his home of over 12 years in Waco, TX to plant a church in Houston, TX. During their family prayer night, his daughter felt led to share a picture with him, which was uncommon for her. She drew a picture of two homes, one having a large gathering and a banner that said, “Leave me,” and the other of an empty home that said, “Come to me.” Her parents asked what she thought it means, and she plainly stated that she felt Jesus was calling them to leave the “gathering” home in Waco and move to the “empty” home in Houston.
This type of revelation may not be the norm for you and your family, but you never know how the Lord decides to speak to you in your decision process. I encourage to you lean on your family in this season. I believe the Lord invites families into the calling as well.
“I always have my wife with me in the process as much as is appropriate – I trust her discernment, which proved to be reliable with Rolling Hills as well." -Kent Vincent, Executive Pastor of Rolling Hills Community Church
“During the interview process, I kept my wife up to speed… While I had no doubt of God’s calling, it was probably one of the hardest decisions we’ve had to make… A real Abraham moment.” -Matt Dumas,Central Christian Church
Make sure to include your spouse in the conversation from day one. We’ve worked with countless candidates that haven’t had these conversations the whole way through, and it severely limits their clarity and peace in the matter.
“Involve your kids in praying each night for the place God is calling us to. Pray for a safe journey, the right friends and peer relationships to be there, the right schools….” -Tony Bowick, Senior Pastor of Execution and Operations for The Church at Rocky Peak
Tony Bowick also gave a few prayer points for you and your family to walk through during your period of transition: "Pray for a place to live, your new schools, friends and classmates, and a safe journey that will take you there. Pray for a sense of excitement about the great adventure God is leading your family through. Pray that God would bless the place you’re leaving and multiply the fruit from your time spent there."
“Talk honestly about feelings and fears. Don’t be defensive, but listen. If God is calling you to this position, He’s calling her, too. You go together. Include the kids in the conversations where appropriate. Have folks who are committed to praying for you.” -Matt Dumas, Central Christian Church
Remember when I said transitions are emotional? One of the most significant burdens you bear is not only managing yourself well, but also shepherding your family well in this transition. Remember, there is so much mercy for you, my friend. One way Kent Vincent suggests you can involve your family is by simply sharing the stir in your heart regarding a shift in your position. This could help curtail misunderstanding as to why things are changing.
3. Follow through to the end.
“I made a focused effort to bless the leadership of Pinelake on my way out and worked diligently to the very end. It’s the best transition ‘out’ that I’ve ever experienced.” -Kent Vincent, Rolling Hills Community Church
There’s something to be said for leaving a place well, no matter the circumstance. As Kent wastransitioning off his staff, he noted that he made a concerted effort to “bless and affirm leadership behind closed doors with team leaders.” He had an answer ready for those who really wanted to know what was going on, and in his case it was easy: God was simply moving him to a different “seat.”
Transitions have the potential to be messy and stressful at times, but trust that God would not lead you anywhere alone. Usually He is the most present when we are making the biggest decisions in our lives. Make sure to lean on Him, your family, and the knowledge of other experienced peers, and your paths will be made straight.
Proverbs 3:6 (NLT): “Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.”
How can you use these insights in your personal journey through a transition?
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