I recently celebrated over 10 years this past August in my young full-time ministry career. In that time frame, my family and I have seen the likes of states like Texas, New York, Florida, and Missouri where we have found ourselves on staff at some great churches. Which means, we know a thing or two about how to transition. I’ll be the first to admit, I have made a few mistakes when switching seasons, but I think my Sr Pastors will say, for the most part, that I did so the right way. Here are a few great points to remember the next time you feel God leading you to switch assignments.
Transitioning is a really big deal, It should always be met with some serious time spent in prayer. Every single time we have transitioned from one assignment to the next, we have always spent at least two to four weeks in prayer and in fasting. We look for two things during that time. One, confirmation! Either through God’s word, a word of God from someone else, or through God speaking through our mentors. Two, a consistent peace! We have learned that God will give us both peace about when and where He is taking us next. Fasting helps to push past flesh and get right to the heart of God, and that’s what you want most, God’s heart for your future.
2. Your Sr Leadership should be the first to know.
When it's comes down to it, you are not the Sr Pastor, that means the people you oversee belong to that Pastor, not you! I see too many people make the mistake of believing they have the right to put their own plan into motion when it comes to who and when they share that they will be transitioning. It's always important to remember that you will be leaving soon, and your Sr Pastor will still be there Pastoring the people you will be leaving. Therefore, it's imperative that you let your Sr Leadership make the call of who should know and when they should know!
3. Know where you are going BEFORE you announce you will be leaving.
Knowing that you are leaving is half the battle, knowing where God is sending you next is the other half! PLEASE, do yourself, and your family the justice of securing the next assignment (that means agreed upon teams and conditions in writing.) My heart goes out to the guys who get spooky spiritual in transitional moments about where they are going next, especially when there are is a wife and children involved! Your children alone warrant you to take your time to secure where you are heading next!
4. Once you make the announcement public, everything changes.
Be prepared for the members, co workers, and even possibly your Sr leadership to change how they feel about you! There’s something about leaving that creates a sense of betrayal and distrust towards the one leaving! Once you let your Sr. Pastor know that you will be transitioning, the ball is no longer in your court. From the timeline of when you should actually leave to when you should tell the people you oversee, that decision now belongs to your Sr Pastor. This can be really tough for some people, but you must trust the Sr Pastor’s heart in the matter. Remember, God called you to serve the vision of the Sr Pastor there. It’s his church to lead and Pastor, not yours.
5. Don’t Throw dirt on your way out.
Sowing seeds of discord or speaking negative of the church or leadership will only hurt those that you once were entrusted to led. Making your problems other peoples problems on your way out is the quickest way to not have God bless your next season. Also, try not to speak negative about the Leadership to your next set of leaders. When you do so, that Sr Pastor will have a hard time trusting you. He will fear that you will talk about him the same way if and when you have to leave. No matter how much you feel that you should defend yourself on your way out the door, DON’T!! Keep your mouth closed and say nothing negative. The worst thing in the world that you could do is to cause a little one to stumble. It would be a shame if you caused a church member there to leave the church, or even worst, leave church all together and disconnect from the body of Christ because of a spirit of offense that you passed to them on the way out. Somethings are just more important than proving a point or winning a fight.
6. Have an exit meeting with your Sr Leader if possible.
I have learned so much from my Sr Leaders at my past churches. There is a level of honesty and transparency that comes with transition that could be a blessing to you if you humble yourself to be able to receive it. Some of the greatest changes I needed to make to become a better Pastor and Staff Member have come out during my exit meetings. I’m a better person and Pastor because of it. Have the courage to ask for a few suggestions that would make you a better leader/pastor. You would be surprised how much it could help you in your next assignment.
7. Leave Alone.
Unless your Sr Leadership is planting or launching a new campus with you, you don’t get to take any of the people from the church. Think of it this way. Those people, no matter how much they love you, belong to that church and the Sr Pastor. For you to allow people to leave with you is not only wrong, but selfish and irresponsible. Starting a church or ministry with people who left the church will only lead to them finding a problem with you at some point and leaving you for another leader. We will always reap what we sow. If someone ask you can they leave with you. Say NO…. Encourage them to stay plugged in. Trust me, God will bless your next assignment when you don't steal from your last one. Those people belong to that church and that Sr Pastor.
In conclusion, never let transition make you bitter, angry, or cause you to lose faith in the Body of Christ. We are all still just one big body, but with many different expressions. Be carful not to allow one church’s expression cause your heart to turn from the institution of The Local Church. It has been and still is our greatest hope for the future of mankind.