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The Success in Succession

Are You Future-Thinking?

There’s been a lot written about senior pastors’ transition and succession, particularly as Boomers are in the throes of figuring out what’s next. I’ve been on both sides of successful transitions, following a catalytic lead pastor/churchplanter as well as turning over my senior pastor leadership to a next gen leader. The reality is: it’s rarely easy because all of us carbon-based bipeds are complicated and easily blur the lines between “what we do” and “who we are”, no matter how integrated we think our psyches are. What’s more, while boards and lead pastors either avoid or gingerly approach severances and finances, it’s undeniably at the forefront of the outgoing pastor’s concerns, no matter how much he or she may downplay it.

Face it: leadership change—and how we process it—can be complex. But as many of us have said for years: it’s not about me. And as leaders, we should add: it’s about the Kingdom…and this local expression and ongoing effectiveness.

A few years back the Hartford Institute did a study on senior pastors’ tenures. Their findings showed a diminishing “spiritual vitality” in churches as pastors grew older. The corollary was simple: the older the pastor, the more likely that worship has ceased to be creative or open to change and improvement. Or as the report expressed it: