Making a transition in ministry has always created awkward moments for me, so when I recently made a move in ministry I was expecting the inevitable, yet it never happened. As I reflect on what made this step different than any other transition I’ve made, there are some important principles and practices I learned from my friend and pastor, Mark Tucker that made this a smooth and healthy transition.
1. Desire God’s Best for Your Staff – It is important for leaders to understand that they do not own their staff members. The leaders that come to us are on loan to us from God. Much like a parents perspective about their children should be, we are only stewards of what God has given to us for a specific amount of time. A leaders number one desire for their staff should never be what can they do for me, but how can I help them get to their destiny. Pastor Mark expressed this with me from the very beginning, that he wanted nothing but God’s will for me and my family.
2. Discuss the Opportunity Openly and Honestly with Your Pastor - I am appalled when I hear about stories of supporting staff members, who are a presented with a good opportunity, openly share it with their pastor and they are accused of being disloyal and suddenly terminated because of it. This should not be the case in the Kingdom. If staff members can’t go to their leader to discuss opportunities for their lives where can they go? Pastors have a responsibility to be a sounding board for their staff. When discussion about transition is on the table it allows a Pastor to be included in the process and takes the element of shock and surprise out of the equation. It also opens the door for the Pastor to possibly make an attempt to keep the staff member and make it hard for them to consider anything else. When there is nothing to hide awkwardness is easy to avoid. Pastor Mark was approachable and we had some real healthy conversations during this process.
3. Make the Transition Your Decision – When healthy transition principles are not in place many staff members will use a transition to take cheap shots at a Pastor and the church on their way out. If you are being led into transition don’t make the transition about anything else except what God is doing in you. If God is leading you to take a step out don’t leave a list of complaints and concerns on your way out. Transition is ultimately your decision! Even in the most difficult situations I have come to understand that if God isn’t calling to leave there is lesson He has for you to learn.
4. Cross the Bridge, but Don’t Burn It – A healthy transition may hurt, but it should never harm any party involved. It’s difficult but it should but never be destructive. When you invest your life into a church, you should always want the best for that church. Since making this transition I’ve made myself available to Pastor Mark and other staff to help the church in anyway I possibly can. Why? Transitions are not an end if your friends!
These principles put me in a position to avoid an awkward transition. Much is to be said about a leader like Pastor Mark who allowed this type of process to unfold. For that I am grateful.
Have you ever experienced an awkward transition? What made it awkward?