“One way or another, every church will eventually lose its pastor or minister yet few congregations prepare for this dramatic event. The pastor’s departure evokes a range of reactions and problems—sorrow and grief, uncertainty, loss of mission and momentum, power struggles—yet no one wants to talk about this elephant in the boardroom.” (taken from the introduction to The Elephant in the Boardroom: Speaking the Unspoken about Pastoral Transitions — see below)
Below are resources dealing with the issue of pastoral succession:
- Heir Apparent — A retiring pastor and his successor discover what it takes to make a transition plan work. A reprint of an article in Leadership Journal by Skye Jethani.
- Passing the Torch – Changing Church Leadership in a Changing World is a book by Donald Bowen, former pastor of Downtown Baptist Church of Alexandria, Virginia. Download the book by clicking the link above. In the words of Bob Perry, “This book tells the story of a healthy church with a healthy pastor making a healthy transition toward the future.” According to Don Bowen, the process and transition went so well, different people encouraged him to tell the Downtown story so as to help other pastors and churches traveling a similar road.
- The Elephant in the Boardroom: Speaking the Unspoken about Pastoral Transitions by Carolyn Weese and J. Russell Crabtree is available from Amazon by clicking the link above. Carolyn Weese and J. Russell Crabtree—experts in the field of church leadership—have written a nuts-and-bolts guide to developing a succession plan for smoothing pastoral transitions. Filled with strategies and solid advice, this handy resource is based in solid research and the authors’ many years of experience working with churches in a wide variety of denominations. Weese and Crabtree clearly show that leadership succession should be part of every church’s planning process
- Point of Departure: A Comprehensively Planned Departure
Curtis Plott, president and chief executive officer of the American Society for Training and Development in Alexandria, Virginia, shares his 3-year transition plan to a successor.
- ASAE Succession Planning Resources
The American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) provides a wealth of resources, including these links on articles related to executive succession.
A Virginia Baptist Case Study
Currently Bonsack Baptist Church in Roanoke, Virginia is intentionally beginning a transition of leadership.
On a recent Sunday evening in March, over 250 adults gathered for a town hall meeting to discuss a planned leadership transition as the church looks ahead to the eventual retirement of their pastor.
After a brief presentation by pastor Bob Moore summarizing months of work by lay leadership, 20 small groups formed to discuss their reaction to the recommended approach.
Facilitated by leaders who participated in an earlier trip to explore this novel approach with Lyle Schaller, the groups enjoyed lively discussions and returned with an overwhelmingly positive response, and predictably similar questions and concerns.
The intentionally slow process to introduce this to the congregation has resulted in an extraordinary show of support for the pastor’s willingness to risk, and personal transparency. Appreciation for the pastor’s leadership was evident in remarks made throughout the evening.
Church leadership will engage in ministry planning this fall as a means of identifying a future direction and begin staffing accordingly. New staff will be brought on over the next several years with a view toward finding someone who can serve as a new senior pastor.