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

Reflection on My Time at First UMC El Dorado

Last Sunday there was a farewell event for our family after the 11 a.m. worship service. It was a wonderful time – heartfelt thanks, earnest wishes, and blessings were shared from one to the other. I shared a few things to those that were there and share them with you here.

Thumbnail Sketch

If I were to give a thumbnail sketch of my time as the preacher at First UMC El Dorado, this is what it would be:

As the preacher at First UMC El Dorado, I led the congregation to design and execute a multi-year strategic plan which resulted in the development of a discipleship pathway to more deeply engage people in the life of faith, a capital campaign for 1.75 times our annual operating budget to renovate of our 1920s era sanctuary, and increased our organizational health through volunteer and staff development.

Clearly this is written in the most positive light, yet I believe it captures some of the most significant highlights of ministry over the last six years.

Three Memorable Days as Pastor

Sunday, August 12, 2012

We had just arrived to town and our daughter, Anne, was a few months old. It was time for her baptism. My father, Mark Conard, baptized her during worship. Baptism is a significant moment in the life of a family and this was particularly meaningful because my father was able to officiate. I remember watching him walk her down the aisle to show the congregation and the love and care in his voice as offered God’s grace in the act of baptism. It was a meaningful day in the life of our family.

Final Week of October 2016

My father died on October 18, 2016. As we were with family during the days that followed, someone from the Staff Parish team asked what would be helpful for us. I sometimes struggle with asking for things, though in this case I managed to say that basics around the house would be helpful for us – mowing the lawn and cleaning a bit inside our house. I remember pulling back into El Dorado after my dad’s service of death and resurrection and graveside service – the lawn looked great. When we walked inside our home was fresh and clean. The care and love that these simple acts demonstrated was overwhelming.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Near the end of the school year, I received an email from one of the staff at Skelly Elementary School that they had something for me in the office. So, when I picked up my son, John, from Kindergarten I went into the office and was greeted with boxes filled with May Baskets! We had launched our partnership with the school at the beginning of the year. This was an amazing gift and a symbol that the partnership between our congregation and the school was taking shape. There was both mutual interest and effort to be a blessing to one another.

Three Things I received during Pastorate

Space to Become a Preacher

When I arrived, I had preached less than ten times in my entire life. The practice of weekly preaching was foreign and intimidating. This congregations has provided the opportunity to learn how to be a preacher. There are some moments in preaching where my internal monologue is wondering “What am I saying?” as I continue to preach and I have taken away 15 minutes you can’t get back in your life. Other Sundays, hopefully more, I have felt used by God to share a word of encouragement, conviction, and vision. I am grateful for space to become a preacher.

Grace Offered in My Leadership

While I like to think otherwise, I know that not every idea that I have had in ministry has been great. There have been days that I have fallen down on the job as your pastor. Throughout my time here, the overarching response to my ministry has been a willingness to follow and discover together where God is leading us. I have learned what it means to be a pastoral leader in this place. I am grateful for grace offered in my leadership.

Gray Hair

I still remember when my hairdresser noted so gracefully, “It looks like your hair is losing some of it’s color. Do you want to do anything to address that?” I said, “No.” So, here I am at the end of my time here with much less color in my hair than I had six years ago.

Blog Reboot: An Ideal Target Person (2 of 4)

I have been using Lift as a tool to help restart this blog and I thought I would share with you some of that process. One of the steps is identifying an ideal target person – someone for whom this blog is written. So, here goes:

The ideal target person for this blog is Methodist clergy, church staff or committed layperson.

Q: What are they passionate about?

  • They are passionate about spiritual renewal in the people and congregations of the United Methodist Church.
  • They care deeply about introducing people to Jesus and helping others grow in their faith.

Q: What are their goals?

  • They want to be effective in their ministry in the local church.
  • They want to have a fulfilling personal and professional life

Q: What are their fears?

  • They are afraid that they have to be on the extreme right or left to find theological companions on their journey.
  • They are afraid they do not have the resources they need to be effective.
  • They are afraid that the United Methodist church is doomed.
  • They are afraid that they are the only ones that don’t have it all figured out

Q: Why should they care about your blog?

They should care about my blog because they will find:

  • resources which they may need for effectiveness
  • encouragement and guidance to be fruitful in ministry,
  • examples from someone who has gone before them in ministry
  • new ideas for day to day life

So, dear reader, does this describe you? What is on target? What is missing?

Perhaps, most importantly, what are your answers to some of these questions?

Raking Leaves and the Spiritual Life

I enjoy taking care of our yard. It is good for my soul.

Last fall, I did not have a chance to get in a final raking as the snow fell early and stayed on through most of the winter. This meant that we were left with a mess of wet and matted leaves to take care of this spring. I was outside raking and saw different results. Where there were thick leaves some of the grass had died and in other locations the grass was not as full and thick in coverage. A good raking cleared out the leaves as well as dead grass that had built up. This let air in and more importantly let the grass see the sun.

The grass is like our spiritual life.

There are places in my soul that are covered and matted down and not able to get the sustenance that is needed. These are the areas in my life where there continues to be sin. Confession and reconciliation clears away the sin, some of the effects of sin and more importantly lets my soul see the Son.

Transition: M-R Pastor of Congregational Care

This week, Bishop Jones announced that Rev. Steven Blair will be appointed to Resurrection on November 1 and will be responsible for those whose last names begin with M through R. You can read the full update to Resurrection here.

I have known Steven for several years and he is an excellent pastor and a great communicator. I believe that his presence at Resurrection will have a positive impact on the entire congregation. I am excited to have the opportunity to be on the same staff and continue to learn from him.

I will be ending my role as pastor of Congregational Care and beginning a role as pastor of Resurrection Internet Campus. I am excited about the potential for in this role and believe that it will be a key part of continuing to build a Christian community where non religious and nominally religious people are becoming deeply committed Christians.

In between the ending of one role and the beginning of another is a time of transition. Over the next 44 days, I invite those of you who are currently part of the M-R pastorate to set up a time to meet with me if you would like to have a one on one conversation about the transition. I hope to arrange an event before November 1 to give you an opportunity to hear about my new role and have an opportunity for closure as I depart my current role.

I care about making a good transition.

I have some ideas about what might be most helpful, but also look to you for guidance. In past pastoral transitions, what has been most helpful for you? What has not been helpful? What guidance do you have for me for making a good transition?

Jesus’ Pastoral Care (2 of 2)

What kind of pastoral care did Jesus provide?

I continued to consider this question at our small group this week when we read the story of the man born blind from John 9. Jesus makes some mud, puts it on the eyes of a man who was born blind and sends him to wash in the pool of Siloam in verse 11. The man’s sight is restored and he has a series of run ins with the religious leaders of the day and Jesus is nowhere to be found.

11 He replied, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.”

12 “Where is this man?” they asked him.
“I don’t know,” he said.

I don’t know. Where is Jesus? He disappears from the picture until verse 35.

It is important to walk with people through difficulty times in their life, but it is not necessary to walk every step of the way with them.

What do you learn about Jesus’ pastoral care from this story?

Jesus’ Pastoral Care (1 of 2)

What kind of pastoral care did Jesus provide?

I was challenged to consider this question by a co-worker last week who used the story of Lazarus as an example. Here are the opening lines of this narrative from John 11, TNIV:

1 Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha.2 (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.)

3 So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”

4 When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.6 So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, 7 and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”

Mary, Martha and Lazarus may have been some of Jesus’ closest friends outside of the twelve men who traveled with him. Jesus receives word that Lazarus is sick (in the hospital or hospice, if it were today, as we know from the story that he is near death) and Jesus proceeds to respond by staying where is for two days.

Two days is a long time when your best friend is near death.

There is little that is truly urgent in pastoral care.

What do you learn about Jesus’ pastoral care from this story?