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

Fruitfulness: How long do you wait? (4 of 4)

February 28: John Wesley charters the Methodis...
Image via Wikipedia

Last week, I had a series of posts about fruitfulness. As I have thought more about this topic, I wondered, How long do you wait?

How long do you wait:

  • before naming that you have been busy and not bearing fruit?
  • to make a change?
  • to celebrate fruit that is being born?
  • before checking something out with your District Superintendent?
  • when a stakeholder is disgruntled?

Fruitfulness: Every Day Living (3 of 4)

Examples of bowls from boards

How do we help people live fruitfully in their day to day life?

Ultimately, the church is not about keeping a variety of interesting programs running and giving people something that to do that is segmented from the rest of their lives. We are about equipping people to live fruitfully in their every day life – at work, with their family, when grocery shopping or even when they show up to worship.

What are some practices that you have found that equip people for living daily the fruit of the spirit?

Fruitfulness: Distinguishing Busyness (2 of 4)

How do we separate busyness and fruitfulness?

Fruitfulness leads to the fruit of the spirit are evidenced among the people. Another way to consider this is to see lives changed, communities transformed and the church renewed.

Busyness does not lead to evidence of the fruit of the spirit. Busyness does not lead to changed lives, transformed communities or renewal within the church.

Fruitfulness: Ministry Audits (1 of 4)

Frosted tree outside my local church
Image by jcoterhals via Flickr

It may be common practice to have the financial books of a local church to be regularly audited.

Does the leadership of your congregation ever conduct ministry audits for fruitfulness?

What would it look like to determine the fruitfulness of a particular ministry area in the church – small groups, UMW, a worship service?

Bearing Fruit: Ministry with Real Results – Review

I recently just finished Bearing Fruit: Ministry with Real Results by Lovett H. Weems, Jr. and Tom Berlin. Along with other members of the senior staff, I read this in preparation for our semi-annual retreat today. I have been considering what it fruitful and effective ministry is like, especially in response to Kevin Watson’s post, Further Thoughts on Measuring Effective Ministry. I appreciated many of the principles put forth in this book. Here is a brief summary:

  1. Fruitfulness is part of the character of God and the story told throughout scripture.
  2. There is a clear difference between business and fruitfulness.
  3. Always be clear about why you are doing anything in the life of the church, i.e. We have worship each week, so that
  4. Alignment between God’s vision and the vision of the leadership is essential for fruitfulness.
  5. Capturing a creation story for an existing congregation can catalyze fruitfulness.
  6. The entirety of God sized visions aren’t always revealed at the outset.
  7. Fruitfulness is enhanced by the governing board, church staff and the congregation being on the same page about vision
  8. As a church leader, paying attention to how you care for yourself is of utmost importance.
  9. God gives the growth

Perhaps most helpful, I found a clear way to consider fruitful leadership:

“Fruitful leaders care about results because results are ways to go beyond merely filling a pastoral role to active participation in seeking results that we are convinced emerge from the gospel we preach.” (xvi, Bearing Fruit: Ministry with Real Results)

In the words of LeVar Burton from Reading Rainbow, “But you don’t have to take my word for it…”