Following a long-term, successful pastorate is one of the hardest callings in ministry.
It should be one of the easiest. After all, if we’re doing pastoral ministry right, we should set up the next pastor for an even greater level of ministry success than we had.
Instead, pastoral transition is one of the most dangerous moments in the life of most churches. And the longer and more successful the pastorate, the harder it tends to be when they leave.
Certainly, losing a beloved pastor is a time for sadness. But it shouldn’t be as devastating as it so often is. Instead, every pastor should do everything we can to make it as easy as possible for the next pastor and the church to do great ministry after we leave.
(This post is part of an ongoing series about pastoral transition, and specifically my transition at Cornerstone Christian Fellowship from lead pastor to teaching pastor, with my long-time youth pastor becoming the lead pastor. Click here to read other posts in the series.)
Here are five points pastors can work on to help that happen.
1. Think Long-Term – No, Longer
For too many pastors, long-term thinking means next month. For some, it means a five- or ten-year plan.
But in certain ways, we need to be thinking even longer than that.
I am currently in my twenty-fifth year as the pastor of Cornerstone Christian Fellowship. And I’m thinking at least that far into the future. I want to do everything I can, with God’s help, to set the church up for successful, kingdom-building ministry for generations of long-term pastorates after I’m gone to be with Jesus.
That means everything I touch, from the building, to programs, to discipling believers, to finances must take long-term consequences into account.
No, I can’t anticipate everything, and I wouldn’t want to. But the church was here long before me, and it will be here long after me. I want to be sure that the legacy I leave will be a blessing to generations who will never have any reason to know my name.
2. Make Sure People Are Following Jesus, Not You
My church is too dependent on me. Most churches in the western world are too dependent on their pastors.
We can whine about it, we can tell others they need to change, or we can help the church we pastor move towards less dependence on us.
How? By making sure everything in the church carries the obvious stamp of Jesus. Not the pastor, the denomination, the new fads, the old traditions, or anything else.