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

Baking Bread and the Life of the Church

“A little yeast works through the whole lump of dough.” – Galatians 5:9

I love baking bread.

There is something incredible about the power of yeast. As the author of Galatians notes, just a bit of yeast is able to be effective when mixed in with the right ingredients. Just a few tablespoons of yeast can be effective for many cups of flour.

When I am kneading the dough, I feel connected with many who have come before me. All those in my family who have used their hands to make bread – both those in the kitchen using the flour and those who have planted and harvested the wheat in the field. It is a practice that is deeply connected with my family. Far beyond my family the practice of baking bread extends across the world and for many generations.

Of course, the practice of baking bread is one that has fallen out of common practice for most families. Homemade bread is a bit of a rarity instead of the norm. Sometimes I think about the life of the church in similar ways. Some generations ago being connected with a local congregation was very common for families across the communities of the United States. However, there are far fewer families connected with a local church today than there were generations ago.

There are any number of resources for families to craft their spiritual life to whatever extent they may choose. Yet, just as store bought bread is no comparison to homemade bread fresh from the oven, so I believe that local communities of faith with people who you know from your neighborhood, workplace or local school create the best environment for children and adults to grow in their faith.

This does not mean that church and congregations are going to look the same as they have in the past, however it does mean church leaders are called to a continued commitment to the communities where they serve and must be willing to innovate and iterate so that God’s love might work through the entire community.

Behavior Change in the Church

One of the goals in the mission of the church is changing behavior.

Making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Making a disciple of Jesus Christ means that one wasn’t before. It also means that there is something that sets apart a disciple of Jesus Christ from someone who is not.

Sometimes the change in behavior comes before a change in heart. For example, a neighbor who gives to a neighborhood food drive before ever being present with the church who organized the event.

Sometimes change in heart comes before a change in behavior. For example, an individual who responds to an evangelistic event at the local park and seeks out connection with a local church.

No matter what one’s spiritual development looks like, there will always be a change in behavior.

“But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do” (James 2:18, TNIV).

Thanks to Behavior Change Made Easy (Sort of) for inspiration on this post.

Speedlinking – June 4, 2010

Speedlinking – May 21, 2010

Pollyanna Principles for The UMC

Several months ago, I read the post The Pollyanna Principles for Social Change, which lead me to The Pollyanna Principles. From the website:

The Pollyanna Principles

The Ends:

1. We accomplish what we hold ourselves accountable for.
2. Each and every one of us is creating the future, every day, whether we do so consciously or not.

The Means:

3. Everyone and everything is interconnected and interdependent, whether we acknowledge that or not.
4. “Being the change we want to see” means walking the talk of our values.
5. Strength builds upon our strengths, not our weaknesses.
6. Individuals will go where systems lead them.

While these principles were not primarily designed for religious organizations, I believe that there are clear correlations to the United Methodist Church. My response to each of the above principles in light of The United Methodist Church:

  1. Whether it is worship attendance, budget, baptisms, confirmation, small groups or some other metric, whatever one measures in the local church becomes that around which efforts focus for continued development. Ultimately we should be holding ourselves accountable to the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
  2. Each person that is part of any United Methodist congregation has influence in the future of the denomination. While the official decisions from General Conference prove influential on a macro scale, the experience and sharing of any local community shapes the understanding of the entire denomination for that area. For example, a church that is thriving and individuals are sharing good news with their neighbors will create a future for the denomination in that area that is positive. In the aggregate, the denomination is shaped.
  3. Related to point 2, the joys and concerns are shared. As in the body of Christ, “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26).
  4. If one hopes to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, one must live as a disciple of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
  5. This is true for the UMC as for nearly any organization.
  6. There is an interesting connection between individuals and systems. In connection with point 2, individuals can influence a system, however ultimately it is most likely that someone will guide others in the way that they have been guided.

What are your thoughts, feelings or opinions about all this?