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

Experiment: Facebook Live Book Study

I am running an experiment this fall in the local church with the purpose of engaging people in discipleship. The experiment is a Facebook Live Book Study. Some of the observations that lead to this experiment:

  • High engagement of video on the church’s Facebook page
  • Congregants sharing the value of study’s led by the preacher
  • Desire for discipleship opportunities outside of Sunday morning

We will be reading Rhythms of Rest: Finding the Spirit of Sabbath in a Busy World by Shelly Miller (Amazon.com) using a reading plan that you can find at the church’s website. My plan is to go on Live on the church’s Facebook page each week to share some highlights from the reading and invite responses. I hope to be able to engage with people who are able to join online at the time, however the content will also be available to engage with through questions I will post in the comments.

I hope that we will be able to connect with new people who would not otherwise be able to fit a discipleship opportunity like this into their schedule. No matter how it goes, there will be valuable learning.

Let’s do this.

Preacher FAQ: Why do you park so far away?

Last Sunday, a member of the congregation asked me why I park so far away from the church building. So, in this edition of frequently asked questions for the preacher, here goes: I park far away from the entrance for two reasons – the mission field and my health.

The mission field is the community to which I have been appointed. There are just over 18,000 people that live within five miles of Berryton United Methodist Church. Over 10,000 of these people are not involved in a religious congregation or community. This is the mission field.

Parking away from the entrance to the building makes sure that there are spaces that are closer for people who may show up for the first time that day. I want to do everything that I can to help welcome people who come to the congregation and a little closer parking spot may help. Also, as I am walking toward the building I am mindful of the cars that will fill the lot and pray for all those that will gather for worship. The walk also offers time to consider those in our community who are not yet connected with a congregation. I am able to reflect on these persons and consider how the choices that I make as a leader in this congregation is helping share God’s love with those who have not yet heard.

Also, I want to stay as healthy as I am able. One healthy habit that I track is parking at the far end of the parking lot each day. This small step adds activity to my day and health to my life.

So, why do I park far away? For a healthy congregation and body.

Disney’s Approach to Employee Engagement

I am spending my day in Wichita at a professional development experience – Disney’s Approach to Employee Engagement. It provided by the Disney Institute and hosted by the Wichita Independent Business Association.

The concepts planned for the day, include:

  • Fostering a Workplace Culture
  • Selecting the Right-Fit Talent
  • Training the Culture
  • Communicating to Inform & Inspire
  • Creating a Caring Environment

I am interested to see how these concepts apply to Berryton United Methodist Church and the Great Plains Annual Conference. The engagement level of the current congregation today is evident to people who may visit the congregation for the first time. Engagement also makes a difference in how readily someone is to share with others about their experience with God and the local church. I am looking forward to more today and will be paying attention to how we can make progress in congregational engagement.

National Congregations Study Participation

Early this week, I received a letter informing me that Berryton UMC was a participant int he 3rd wave of the National Congregations Study (NCS) and that I was “one of a small number of religious leaders from across the U.S. chosen randomly to again represent [my] religious community in the 4th wave of the NCS.”

The National Congregations Study (NCS) is an ongoing national survey effort to gather information about the basic characteristics of America’s congregations. It is an effort of the University of Chicago and Duke University.

This is pretty great! I have looked at the key findings of the previous waves of NCS research and have appreciated the research. I participated in the phone interview this week and it was fun to be part of the ongoing research on religious congregations in the United States.

I was asked a number of questions about Berryton United Methodist Church, including around the history of the congregation, staffing, worship services, groups and activities, financials, and my background. I am looking forward to seeing the results of the work when they are published and glad to have been part of the process.

You can find out more about the National Congregations Study here.

 

Annual Review for Clergy – District Superintendent Version

As a United Methodist clergy person, part of my annual routine is a conversation with my District Superintendent about life and ministry. My conversation with the Topeka District Superintendent, Rev. Kay Scarbrough, is next week and thought you might be interested in the written responses which I provided in advance. I would love to hear your thoughts, feelings, or opinions about what you read here.

How is it with your soul – personal celebrations and concerns?

My soul is better today than it has been in some months. Our family has navigated our transition to the Topeka area relatively successfully. I have been intentional about creating space in my weekly routine for work, family, and recreation. I have maintained a commitment to a practice of meditation, reading the Bible in a year, and spending time in prayer each day. I have also recommitted to my practice of running, including registering for four half marathons in the appointive year ahead.

Review your ministry during the past year – accomplishments? frustrations? areas for improvement? (If you are in first year of setting, you can either share about previous setting or skip this question.)

One of the key accomplishments in my ministry during the past year was leaving First UMC El Dorado as well as possible. I was able to create space for the congregation and our family grieve what was ending and to be intentional in preparing for what was ahead. An area for improvement is engaging a wide variety of stakeholders when making significant changes in the life and ministry of the congregation.

Describe the opportunities in your current mission field / community – needs to meet? affinity groups to reach?

One of the key opportunities in my current mission field is to connect families with elementary-age children into meaningful community to grow in their faith. There are a number of these families who are present in worship, though are not yet connected with either Sunday school or other small group opportunities.

There is also an opportunity to share a balanced approach to faith with the community which includes the evangelical and social gospel and sees good in both sides in many theological and social issues. This could be most effective when offered in ways that comes alongside the day to day life of families and does not demand that they adapt to the logistics of practicing faith that have been effective in previous generations.

I believe that there is also an opportunity to coordinate the outreach and discipleship efforts of congregations in the Shawnee Heights school district to more effectively connect with the community. I am hopeful that the work of our network will be able to catalyze connections for youth and adults across the community.

Share your plans / priorities for the coming year in leading your congregation(s) to greater vitality (or to the next phase in its life cycle). (If you are in first year of setting, the 100-day plan will suffice for this part.)

One of my priorities for the coming year is to strengthen lay leadership and equip current leaders to raise up the next generation of leaders. I hope to make progress in the communication tools to reach both the current congregation and surrounding community. I plan to help the congregation improve financial practices for annual giving and to develop a plan for long-term vitality of the congregation.

What specific assistance do you need from the DS or the conference to realize your goals? to be effective/fruitful in ministry?

The DS and conference can assist by providing as much clarity as possible about future organizational changes and shared initiatives for Great Plains United Methodists. Also, encouragement, institutional backing, and, perhaps, financial support to experiment with new ways of organizing to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the wold.