Last year I was invited to 20 conferences to speak about small church leadership to over 5,000 pastors. And I already have 20 conferences lined up for 2018 – and it’s just January.
Meanwhile, the amazing, innovative, missional small church I have been blessed to pastor for 25 years has become stronger, more loving, more worshipful and more excited about our future than ever before. We’ve been raising leaders, sending missionaries, training interns and reaching even deeper into our community.
But I know my limits.
While I want to do it all, I can’t. There’s only so much time and energy available.
So, a couple years ago Gary and I started talking about what we could do to keep the church moving forward, while spending our time and energy as wisely as possible.
The answer we believe the Lord led us to is what we announced to our congregation on Sunday.
This is not the usual way pastoral transitions are done. In fact, when we first thought of it we’d never heard of anyone even attempting it. Switch chairs? Have the associate pastor become the lead pastor, while the former lead pastor not only stays, but remains an active member of the pastoral team? Were we crazy for even thinking it could be done?
It was shortly after we decided to pull the trigger on this that Carey Nieuwhof put out a podcast describing how he and his assistant Jeff Brodie had made a similar switch at Connexus church. It was a wonderful affirmation of our decision, and the podcast was filled with very helpful ideas, too. It also was a helpful reminder of why I continue to write about my pastoral experiences. I want to help other pastors learn from what we’re doing the way Carey and so many other pastors have done for me.
Reason 2: It’s not time to go, but it’s time to let go
One of my biggest fears in ministry is that I might be one of those pastors who fails to see the writing on the wall and stays in the saddle after it’s my time to leave.
I also never want the church to rely so heavily on me that when I do leave – as everyone will, eventually – the trauma of my departure will hurt the church.
We’ve all seen both of those scenarios play out badly, with good churches getting hurt in the process.