Innovative Ministry
Pastoral Transition: Six Factors That Help A Church Navigate Big Changes
Churches that resist change have a harder time when change is needed. Churches that regularly make smaller transitions hone their transition skills.

Six months ago today, our church made our biggest transition in a quarter century.

After being the lead pastor for 25 years, I stepped aside so that Gary Garcia (the youth pastor who has been with me for that entire time) could take my position, while I became the teaching pastor.

I wrote about this transition before, during and immediately after it happened, but the six month point seems like a good time to report on how things are going so far.

How is the church doing? How have they accepted the new pastor? How do we work together now that the lines of authority have shifted?

In a word, it’s working great. On every level.

The church is solid. No one has left due to the transition. Worship, fellowship and ministry are stronger than ever. New leaders are stepping in to their roles. The facility is being upgraded.

The new lead pastor has been completely embraced by the congregation. New people have been added. He, I and the rest of the leadership team are working together smoothly in our new roles.

Why?

In addition to the essential factor that we all believe this transition was and is God’s plan for me, the church and its new lead pastor, there are six factors key that are helping this work, and that can help any church navigate necessary changes:

1. Timing

Every major life change has a window of opportunity, like the hand-off zone in a relay race, in which a transition can happen best. Move too early and people feel pushed, too late and you’ve missed the momentum and lost some of your innovators and self-starters.

Every major life change has a window of opportunity, like the hand-off zone in a relay race.

Our church has gone through several major transitions during my 25 years as lead pastor. By doing so, we’ve developed the skills needed to make bigger changes, including getting the timing right. Developing these skills has allowed us to catch the front end of the transition zone, giving us plenty of time to make the transfer without feeling rushed.

Churches that resist change have a harder time when change is needed. Churches that regularly make smaller transitions hone their transition skills. This includes learning about timing, which serve everyone better when it’s time for larger transitions.

2. Relationships

When big changes are needed, there’s no substitute for having strong relationships to build on. Gary and I have worked together for over 25 years, but you don’t need that much time in to develop relationships in your church.

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August 13, 2018 at 10:20 AM

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