Successful Transitions


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By Garry Brackett: Executive Coach, Non-Profit Leadership Equipping , and Blogger, Garry Brackett: Executive Coach, and Non-Profit Leadership Equipping. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

Communicate Clearly, Honestly, & Often

It is hard to over-exaggerate the importance of this first factor. Evidence of good communication, especially between a church’s leadership and congregation, is the single biggest factor in a smooth leadership transition. The inverse is also true!

This trend persists regardless of the events that precipitate a transition. Even when a leader is leaving under scandalous circumstances, communication is vitally important to communicate reality, but also to protect against damaging communication that can enflame.

Target Unity

This factor is a combination of perceived strengths or weaknessesbetween a congregation and the church leadership, unity within the congregation itself, and among the governing body of elders, board members, staff, and admins.

Negative emotions accompany a lack of unity. Worry, doubt, and confusion creep into the congregational narrative.

Church attendees who experience a difficult transition tend to feel worry,regret, nostalgia, and confusion. These same attendees struggle to rebound or renew their energy post-transition. Many will see increases in their negative emotions and feelings.

On the other hand, church attendees and staff who have a sense of “we are all in this together,” are much more likely to feel hopeful.

If You Can, Plan

The reasons for a pastoral transition affects the experience, emotions, and perceived outcomes of a transition. Planned departures go more smoothly, while forced or unplanned transitions are worse on multiple outcomes. Having just stated this fact research reveals that attendees and staff are split on whether there was a succession plan in place before the transition started. It appears that only one-half of churches have a clear plan and that these plans are known by the staff. A make-it-up-as-we-go type of plan has the least chance for a smooth transition.

Aim For A Graceful Exit

Regardless of the reason for a pastors transition out of their full-time role; they undergo a dramatic life shift. The outgoing pastor is at the center of succession in more ways than one, and not always for the best. Just over 50% of pastors say the transition was hard on their family and that staff pastor relationships weakened during the transition. When transitions are gradual and not sudden, the transition experience seems to have a more positive impact.

The most positive outcome in transitions is when the outgoing andincoming pastors overlap. This is only likely when churches have a succession plan in place.

Keep Asking WHY

It is important to be aware of the motivations behind a successionprocess, not just the out-front decisions. Leadership rationale is quitedifferent than attendees. Succession plans that are based upon money and/or growth is likely to take longer, have more negative side impacts, and a higher staff turn-over.

Concerns over money is not the best rallying-cry for the incoming pastor. Also pastoral transitions has repercussions that are significant enough to caution teams to be very intentional and prayerful about setting long-term goals for their own transitions.

Pastors and leaders cannot afford to delay thinking about their transitions plans. Each transition is as unique as the leader and the congregation.Planning early and thoroughly is vitally important. Communication cannotbe over-stated – it is the heart-beat of healthy transitions.

Now is the time to assess communication strengths and weaknesses, to broaden and hone inadequate skills, and to deepen relational roots so the you thrive together in every season to come.


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331 episodes