7 Keys to #Church #Leadership Transition

At Topeka Bible Church, we are about ready to make some staff changes in the worship arts family. We’ve hired a new Technical Arts Director to start on July 19th.  It’s only 6 weeks away.  In thinking through what this will look like, here’s what the current staff organization chart looks like for us.

Current Staff Organization Chart

And here’s what the future staff org chart will look like…

Future Staff Organization Chart

Thinking about transitions, allow me to share about another experience. Another church I was on staff at for 10 years experienced the senior pastor announcing his retirement after being there for 30+ years.  The pastor had been there almost since the beginning of the church. His announcement said, “In 2 years, I’ll retire and leave…so lets begin a transition process.”  It was exciting, anxious, and an opportunity for all of us to learn.  During those two years, we witnessed a smooth transition.  It’s a model that worked.  And there are seven common sense keys that worked.

  1. Communication. Depending on the type/size of transition; leadership, staff, and/or the entire organization may need to be informed.  Building trust by outlining the transition’s purpose and plan is critical during a time of change.  [For example, those reading this blog post from Topeka Bible Church will have an opportunity to see the current/future staff organization chart.  This blog post is a part of communication.]
  2. Clarity. Roles ought to be clearly defined.  Writing a position description for those who are newly hired, staff who are changing, or those who will give oversight is helpful.  A timeline for transition should be clear to impacted staff and those who are managing.  Paint a clear picture of what the handoff will look like, then break it down into smaller parts (in writing).
  3. Accountability. In the middle of transition, the new/changing roles are sometimes challenged or unclear.  Someone must take responsibility for making the roles function as designed.  Setting up a transition team (staff led with elder oversight) who’s job will be to keep the “status quo” for a short duration until the new leader comes can be helpful.  This also gives an opportunity for internal leadership development.
  4. Identify alliances. There are both helpful and hurtful alliances.  In a perfect leader-team world, political games and organizational chess matches shouldn’t exist.  Unfortunately, they do.  Underestimating or, worse, ignoring these groups can make or break an organization during a crucial transition.
  5. Time & Acceptance. It’s been said in major transitions (following a senior pastor of 20-30+ years) that the leader who follows usually lasts 1-2 years.  That’s in large part up to the church — whether or not they are willing to embrace and accept the new leadership.  I’ll never forget the influential person who stood up and said, “It’s up to us whether or not the next leader will stick around.  It’s up to you and me.”
  6. Celebrate. If the former leader is leaving the organization, honor them in public and in private.  They deserve a big party to remind everyone how God worked through them.
  7. Space. A “hands off” approach from the outgoing leader is essential.  Without it, the ship never really changes captains.  There’s only one captain of a ship.  If another one appear, someone will walk the plank.

Nothing earth shattering here…but pulling these 7 leadership transition keys off (and pulling them off well) is a whole different story.  Execution is everything.  What do you think?  Any missing that should be added?


2 Responses to 7 Keys to #Church #Leadership Transition

  1. Jim Congdon says:

    OK OK I can take a hint. But at least I can spell Maintenance right! 🙂

  2. verticalresonator says:

    Thanks for the good eye Jim. Glad we have a good proof reader on staff ; )

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