Jump directly to the Content

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 ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe to Christianity Today magazine. Subscribers have full digital access to CT Pastors articles.

Homepage Subscription Panel

Read These Next

Related
Confessions of a Former ‘It’ Church Pastor
Confessions of a Former ‘It’ Church Pastor
We were the hottest church in our area. Then everything imploded.
From the Magazine
Martha: Busy Hostess or Dragon Slayer?
Martha: Busy Hostess or Dragon Slayer?
The Gospel of John and medieval legend show Mary’s sister to value theology and hospitality.
Editor's Pick
We Follow the One Who Gave It All
We Follow the One Who Gave It All
A look inside our fall CT Pastors issue on money and generosity.
close