Pastoral Transition Tools – Transition Timeline

I have come to understand that the planning and execution of a pastoral transition can make a significant difference in the fruitfulness of both a pastor and congregation in the months ahead. There are a number of resources that I have used to develop tools which I have used in transition. You can find these and more of my writing on pastoral transitions here. Also, I commend these books to you that I have found to be helpful during a pastoral transition (Amazon affiliate links):

This is a draft timeline of key events in the farewell process for the congregation and outgoing pastor. It is compiled from the resources above and from my own experience. While each event may not be appropriate for every setting, I hope that you find it helpful.

Transition Announcement – As It Occurs

Announce the appointment of the current pastor to serve a new congregation and the appointment of the incoming pastor to serve the current congregation in worship and by email.

Transition Team – 12 Weeks Out

Identify a team that will tend to the transition for about 6 months. It may include members of the staff parish team as well as others. This team will help make these farewell opportunities happen and help create a network of support for the incoming pastor.

Farewell Letter – 10 Weeks Out

The outgoing pastor writes a letter to the congregation to offer care during transition, celebrate time together, and clarifying roles and responsibilities for the months ahead. It may be delivered by email, postal mail, or regular newsletter.

Exit Interview – 9 Weeks Out

The outgoing pastor and staff parish team share an informal conversation about the pastor’s tenure. Create space to share joys, concerns, hurts, blessings, accomplishments, and work left undone. The purpose of this conversation is learning for both congregation and pastor.

Sharing Memories – 8 Weeks Out

Create the opportunity for congregants to share memories of the outgoing pastor and family (if applicable). There may be cards made available to share written memories, invitation to share photos, and / or other items.

Fun Facts – 6 Weeks Out

Begin sharing a few fun facts about the incoming pastor during worship each week to provide additional introduction. This may be done in a fun, light-hearted way.

Farewell Event and Meal – 4 Weeks Out

Create the opportunity for congregation and pastor to share a meal together. It may be a potluck meal. During this time make space for sharing the way that God has been at work during their time together, remembering significant moments, and offer blessings for the future. This event is planned on the Sunday before the pastor’s final Sunday to help make it possible for congregants who may be away to participate in farewell events.

“Pass the Mantle” in Worship – 3 Weeks Out

As one of the final acts of worship on the outgoing pastor’s final Sunday, the pastor offers a tangible item to a lay leader. It may be placed in the sanctuary as a visible sign of pastoral transition. The item could be something, such as, a study bible, cup and plate for communion, stole, or other sign of the pastoral role.

First Sunday for Incoming Pastor – 0 Weeks Out

During worship, the incoming pastor may receive the item left in the sanctuary by the outgoing pastor.

Pastoral Transition Tools – Pastor to Pastor Debrief

I have come to understand that the planning and execution of a pastoral transition can make a significant difference in the fruitfulness of both a pastor and congregation in the months ahead. There are a number of resources that I have used to develop tools which I have used in transition. You can find these and more of my writing on pastoral transitions here. Also, I commend these books to you that I have found to be helpful during a pastoral transition (Amazon affiliate links):

The Pastor to Pastor Debrief occurs between the outgoing and incoming pastor. There are a number of questions, practicalities, and knowledge about the workings of the congregation that can be incredibly helpful to pass from one pastor to the next. Here is an outline of a Pastor to Pastor Debrief that I have used as a guide during my pastoral transitions. It is compiled from the resources above and some additions of my own. While every question may not be appropriate for every setting, this provides an outline to cover some of the most important topics. Enjoy!

Worship

  • Particular traditions and styles
  • Attendance trends
  • Recent controversies
  • Preaching style
  • Time issues
  • Important traditions
  • Seasonal variations
  • Special services
  • Who is involved in planning worship?
  • Are any new services being planned?
  • What is the role of clergy and laity during worship?
  • What is the role of children and youth in worship?
  • Is there children’s worship during the main worship services?
  • Is there a children’s message in the service? If so, who is responsible for the children’s message?
  • How is the bulletin and / or presentation prepared? Who is involved? What is the timleine for completion each week?
  • How does the church conduct the sacraments? When is communion offered and by what means?
  • Are tehre ecumenical community worship events? When?

Grow

  • Adult education / formation programs
  • Children’s education / formation programs
  • Youth education / formation programs
  • Important new programs that need support
  • Older programs that are important
  • Seasonal traditions

Serve

  • Board role
  • Commitee structure
  • Meeting cycles
  • Annual program calendar
  • Report formats
  • Facility issues and policies
  • Keys and access issues
  • Alarm system

Personnel

  • Staff structure
  • Job descriptions
  • Evaluation processes
  • Staff meetings and agenda
  • Staff issues
  • Recent hires and terminations
  • Training and coaching
  • Are any staff positions currently vacant?
  • Are any staff changes needed or expected?

Buildings and Grounds

  • How are building items and maintenance handled? Who orders supplies? Is there a custodian? What are her / his hours?
  • What community groups use the buildgin?

Information Technology

  • Describe the computer network. Is it wireless? Is the pastor provided with a computer? What kind?
  • Does the church have a web page? If so, who maintains it?
  • What are the appropriate passwords the pastor needs to know? How will the pastor’s email be set up?
  • Who knows about the church’s membership and financial software?

Give

  • Fundraising approaches
  • Giving patterns and records
  • Financial trends
  • Financial issues
  • Are there any tenure-bridging financial issue?
  • Are there any tenure-bridging capital issues?
  • What is the normal stewardship process in this church?
  • Who is in charge of promoting stewardship in the church?
  • What is the number of pledging and non-peldging households?
  • What is the average financial contribution of each member family to the church?
  • What is the pastor’s expected role in stewardship campaigns?
  • Does the church have a permanent endowment fund? If so, what is it used for and how is it funded?

Share

  • What is the church’s primary method of communication with its member? What percentage of the church membership uses electronic communication (email, text, interet, etc.)?
  • How often does the church newsletter come out? How is it distributed? What does the pastor need to prepare for the newsletter?
  • How does the church communicate with the community? What kind of advertising does teh church do?

Care

  • Lay care team
  • Names of terminally ill
  • Names of bereaved in last twelve months
  • Patterns of pastoral care
  • What agencies or resources are available for those who may call with needs for emergency food, clothing, shelter, or assistance?
  • What families are currently experiencing loss, illness, or special needs?
  • Who are the homebound members? Is there a regular ministry in place for them?

Pastoral

  • Unusual expectations of pastor
  • Is there a ministerial assocaition in the community? Provide contact information.

Church Climate

  • How warm are church members to one another? To new people?
  • How is the morale in this church?
  • How open is this church to change?
  • What are the significant conflicts in the church?
  • How central is faith to members’ lives?
  • How conservative or liberal is this church?
  • How diverse is this church theologically, ethnically, and demographically?
  • Where are the landmines?

People

  • Who is angry at the church?
  • Who is angry at the pastor?
  • Who are important allies?
  • Who can’t be trusted?
  • Who has an agenda?
  • Who will keep confidences?
  • Who is in danger of burning out?
  • Who is undersused?
  • Who has recently retired?
  • Who are the five most influential persons in the church?
  • Who are the saints?

Documents to Include

  • Copy of the church’s vision / mission statement
  • Most recent minutes of all-church conferences or meetings
  • Church directory, annotated with information about relationships, pastoral care nees, and potential leaders
  • Church email list
  • Organizational chart and list of church lay leaders and committee members
  • Church policies for weddings, funerals, building use, employee handbook, etc.
  • Current and last two years of budget reports
  • Latest month’s financial statement
  • Last three church newsletters
  • Recent bulletins for each worship service
  • Bulletins for most recent Christmas Eve and Easter services, as well as other special services that are routinely part of the church’s life
  • Church keys

A Season of Transition

It is a season of transition. I have had the opportunity to serve as the preacher at Berryton United Methodist Church since July 1, 2018. On Sunday, I announced during worship that I have received a new appointment from Bishop Ruben Saenz to serve as the pastor at Susanna Wesley United Methodist Church in Topeka beginning July 1, 2019. I will miss the good people of Berryton and am grateful for the care our family has received from both the church and community. I look forward to meeting the people of Susanna Wesley, learning more about the ministries, traditions, hopes, and dreams of the congregation, and continuing to reach the mission field with the good news of God’s love in Jesus Christ. I am also looking forward to learning from Rev. Maria Campbell who has served Susanna Wesley faithfully these past seven years!

The Staff Parish team at Berryton UMC has been in conversation with our District Superintendent, Rev. Kay Scarbrough, about who will be appointed to serve as the next pastor. We will share that news when it is available. Will you take a moment to pray for our community, congregations, Bishop, District Superintendents and our family?

If you would like to get or stay connected with me, here are a few ways:

I am committed to making this transition in the best possible way, including saying goodbye, grieving, finding away in the “in-between” space, saying hello, and engaging new beginnings.

Sunday’s Palms are Wednesday’s Ashes

Each year, I set aside some of the palm branches which we use on Palm Sunday to celebrate Jesus’ entry into Jerusalsem. Over the months they lose some of their color and they completely dry. Then some days before the beginning of the season of Lent, I burn them. While the ashes are still warm, I use a mortar and pestle to finely grind them to be used for Ash Wednesday.

Today was that day.

Sunday’s palms are Wednesday’s ashes…

Local Church Conversation about #gc2019

Yesterday afternoon, we had an all-church conversation at Berryton United Methodist Church to process the 2019 special session of the General Conference. I put it on the calendar about a month ago. While it was, of course, impossible to predict how things would go, I did figure that we would need some time and space to process whatever it was that was passed. This was true.

The weather was bitterly cold and it was snowing for the first part of the morning with about 3 inches accumulated before the first worship service ended. It was the second lowest in-person worship attendance in the last two years. In spite of the conditions, we had a great turnout on Sunday afternoon to talk about General Conference.

I shared these documents with those that were gathered:

The first document was a statement that I shared in worship and the second was shared at the meeting in the afternoon. Both were adapted from resources provided by the Great Plains Annual Conference.

I am glad that people gathered and were willing to share their pain, questions, confusion, and hope. It felt inadequate. There needs to be and will continue to be more conversations in local congregations just like ours across the United States and around the world. People are moved to take action.

Tears Came Today

I had not cried this week…

Until this morning.

As I was dropping our children off at school, One Day by Matisyahu came up on shuffle on the playlist to which we were listening. They headed off for their school day and I drove home with tears rolling down my cheeks. Here is the music video:

Memories of Family Time

I first heard the song several years ago when our family was visiting the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. and we watched Dream Big: Engineering our World. Here’s the trailer for that film:

Reflections

The song evoked for me memories of time with our children, wanting the best for them in the future, echoes of grief from my Dad’s death, and a deep desire for peace – especially in light of the ferocious conflict at General Conference.

When the tears came I was first surprised, then grateful. They were cleansing, almost refreshing, and helped restore some places of my soul that I had not been aware were stuck.

One day this all will change
Treat people the same
Stop with the violence
Down with the hate
One day we’ll all be free
And proud to be
Under the same sun
Singing songs of freedom like

Gotta hold on
Livin life day by day
Gotta hold on
Put your focus on that one day

All my life I’ve been waiting for
I’ve been praying for
For the people to say
That we don’t wanna fight no more
They’ll be no more wars
And our children will play
One day (one day), One day (one day)
One day (one day), One day (one day)
One day (one day), One day (one day)

From One Day by Matisyahu

Reflections on Day 2 of #gc2019

This morning I led worship at Berryton United Methodist Church and preached a sermon about being in connection with one another – Moved to Connect. It is the second in a three part series, The Movement Continues. It is focused on who we are as United Methodist Christians. During our worship service, we lifted up the delegates and work of the General Conference in prayer at both of our worship services. After leaving the church building, I visited one of our congregants who just entered hospice care and then it was time to head home. In between all of these, I was listening and watching the live video stream of General Conference.

Church and Technology

Each time the church gathers with voting devices of any sort, there is some time that is taken making sure that everyone knows how and is able to vote correctly. My first response was, “Why can’t we move through this any faster?” However, I quickly caught myself with the reminder of how important it is that each person is able to understand the tools that are available to them before they are able to use them effectively. Training and practice to prepare will always be helpful in making progress later.

One Legislative Committee

One of the interesting aspects of this General Conference is that there is a legislative body of the entire body. Most often, delegates are divided among a variety of legislative committees which address legislation to be brought back to the entire General Conference. It was surprising to see a non-bishop leading on the livestream, though it seems likely that the Rev. Joe Harris could become a candidate for bishop.

Prioritizing Legislation

I found the voting method to prioritize legislation to be genius. A vote for high or low priority for each piece of legislation with the results being held until the end was a bit mind-numbing on the live video stream, however it was an efficient way of getting of sense of a sense of the body of delegates regarding the entire set of legislation. As a supporter of full inclusion of all people in the life and ministry of the church, it was disheartening to see the One Church Plan ranked as a lower priority than the Traditional Plan.

Early Adjournment

I was puzzled by the vote to adjourn with nearly 45 minutes remaining until the scheduled adjournment for the day. After dealing with the legislation from Wespath, it was suggested that it would be best to wait until the morning to take up the Traditional Plan. On the one hand, probably so. It was nearing the end of the day and there will be a great deal of speaking against and for, amending, substituting, and other legislative maneuvering. On the other hand, probably not. There is less than 18 hours remaining on the schedule for the work to be completed.

In either case, it seemed that it was time for supporters of both the One Church Plan and Traditional Plan to take in the votes of the day and make plans for the best approach to move ahead tomorrow.

Thank You

I am grateful for the time, effort, and dedication of all the delegates.

I continue to pray for wisdom, clarity, peace, and endurance.

Thank you for your service during these days.

Your work makes a difference.

Rest well tonight.