Ministry Transitions Introduction…
Every minister and ministry encounters times of major transitions. Try as we may, you and I will never be able to escape the inevitability of key life changes. These “sea changes” in a ministry direction generally occur from 3 to 5 times in the life of an active Christian minister. Ministry reassignments requiring a geographical relocation, difficult health and family issues, affiliation changes, promotions and higher levels of opportunity, resignation, and retirement are a few of those times of significant change—not to mention death.
Such seasons of change (See: Savoring Life’s Seasons Series), difficult enough to discern, must be even more cautiously approached with much wisdom and grace. Unfortunately, most major changes come upon us suddenly and involuntarily, sometimes causing us to react to others rather than to respond to the Lord. Our personal fears and insecurities, and dare I say carnality can cause many of our God-intended times of transitions to be very hurtful times of regret rather than reverent times of release.
Not only are we personally caught off guard by failing to discern a season of transition—so are those with whom we labor. The wise and godly leader will seek to make their personal ministry transition as gracious and gentle as possible knowing that it is traumatic for everyone involved when it is time for a key leader to leave.
My own recent retirement from 26 years of pastoral ministry has convinced me of the need to come along side of ministers and ministries in their own time of major transitions. Having personally failed (and been failed by others) a number of times before, I can honestly say that the last two times (in 12 years) of major changes in my life and ministry have been the most gratifying and rewarding!
As a result, I can recommend at last three requirements, personally and corporately, for a Spirit-guided transition process:
- Godly character (the entire process will be a time of testing for all involved)
- Experience-based wisdom (reflecting on past approaches and results can help redemptively guide present responses)
- Knowledge of an effective transition plan (A practical plan or “how to’s” can keep the process on target)
Such a transition process is further facilitated by recognizing the need for:
- Personal retreat(s)—time to pull aside and prayerfully reflect and journal your thoughts.
- Personal counsel—trusted and objective spiritual advisor(s) in whom you can honestly confide without fear of reprisal. Someone outside of the ministry context.
- Board retreat(s)—time to pull aside to prayerfully reflect on the implications of major changes in the ministry.
- Board counsel—to help objectively guide discussions and decisions to assure honesty and honor. Must be from outside the ministry context to avoid conflict of interest.
Though much more is involved, this article should help to identify a number of important considerations when the time comes for your next season of major transition. RWM has been feels a special calling to help assist ministers and ministries in just such times as these.