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Heir Apparent

A retiring pastor and his successor discover what it takes to make a transition plan work.

When King Charles II of Spain died in 1701 with no heir, the result was the War of Spanish Succession, which embroiled France, England, Italy, Austria, and the Netherlands in a conflict that lasted 13 years.

Planning ahead for succession matters. It's a lesson churches are learning, too, especially congregations with lead pastors of long tenure. How well a church plans for leadership transition may determine its long-term health. Failure to plan may result in stagnation, or as Spain discovered, serious conflict.

Pete Schwalm knew the dangers well. Senior pastor of Fairhaven Church in Dayton, Ohio, since 1983, Schwalm privately began thinking about succession ten years ago.

"I'd heard the war stories of new senior pastors coming in and cleaning house—getting rid of all the staff," says Schwalm. "Fairhaven has 15 fulltime pastoral staff members with families, and I genuinely care about them. I didn't want to see these great people forced to leave the church when I did."

Beyond affection ...

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