Pastoral Succession is a Family Matter

I was recently on the phone with a pastor that wants to start the process of succession planning. Our time on the phone was another reminder of how personal the issue of succession planning is.

Our call started out like so many others. He and the Executive Pastor gave me the background of the church. They listed some of the issues they think need to be addressed over the next five to seven years. They asked for my initial thoughts and other questions related to how I go about helping churches like theirs. We talked for about 45 minutes before his Executive Pastor had to leave for another appointment.

Once it was just Bob, the Sr. Pastor, on the line I took the opportunity to get a little more personal. I asked a simple question…

“How are you and your wife handling the idea of your eventual retirement?”

The tone completely changed!! The initial part of the call was all about organizational priorities. Now, we were able to start digging into his personal motivations.  Here is a summary of what we talked about:

  • He wants to stay involved with the church after he retires
  • The fear of hurting people by not transitioning well is a significant motivation
  • What will he do next?
  • His wife’s transition is just as important as his
  • He is wondering what their financial future will look like

Succession Planning is bigger than hiring the right person, developing leaders or making sure the organization doesn’t lose momentum.  Don’t get me wrong – these things are important. But in the process of addressing the organizational side of succession planning we must be careful not lose sight of our opportunity to help the retiring leader wrestle through their personal fears and concerns.


 

Learn about this and other important topics involved in Pastoral Succession at our Pastoral Succession Boot Camp coming to Phoenix, AZ, April 21-22.

 

Let me know if there is any way we can serve you in this season. Let’s start a conversation.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Will Heath

Will Heath

Will Heath is a unique voice on the topic of succession planning. He has served the local church for over 20 years in a variety of ways: serving bi-vocationally, as an Executive Pastor and consultant. His ministry and professional background have afforded him rare, front-row access to succession plans at various stages of development and implementation in the business, ministry and nonprofit community in Dallas, TX. In 2010, Will commissioned (and personally funded) a national survey of 600 pastors on the issue of retirement based transitions. In 2012, he began speaking at conferences and consulting with ministry leaders in the area of succession planning. Will joined the Auxano team in 2015. He leads the initiative to help ministries understand how to effectively navigate seasons of leadership transition. Will lives in the booming metropolis of Murphy, TX with his wife Ali and their two girls. In his spare time, he enjoys coaching high jump for their local summer track club, disc golf (RHBH) and volleyball. In 2014, Will had the honor of being selected to serve as a Board Member for Christar, a missions agency that plants churches in the context of least reached people groups.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

8 Succession Success Markers

We are only ten months in to the transition at Mariners Church between Kenton Beshore (long-time senior pastor) and me (the new guy). But we are frequently receiving phone calls from churches that see succession from a long-time senior to a new leader in their not-so-distant future. The healthy relationship Kenton and I share is truly God’s grace to me, to our church, and I believe to Kenton as well. While ultimately the transition is the Lord’s work, there are practical lessons along the way. Here are eight things Kenton has done, and is doing, for me to make this transition as smooth as possible—eight ways to treat your successor:

1. With support

Countless times I have been in conversations with people in the church and heard, “I ran into Kenton and he was bragging on you.” Kenton’s humility to support me, both publicly and in conversations with others, has helped immensely.

2. With strategic hand-off moments

Kenton cares about moments, moments that mark the transition. For example, my first elder retreat was Kenton’s last as senior pastor. He led the first session and I led the last. It was a marked moment that Kenton designed.

3. With presence

When I teach, Kenton is often there on the front row taking notes. He has been in my corner, not just verbally but with his presence. Often in leadership presence speaks louder than words.

4. With absence

There are times when Kenton is not around, which has helped me express my leadership, without wondering if this is a moment where I should pause and honor him. For example, the first time I spoke to our “shepherding elders” and their wives, Kenton did not come. We did not highlight that fact, but it helped communicate that it is now my turn to provide direction. How do we decide when presence or absence is best? We talk about it.

5. With history

Kenton has served Mariners for nearly as long as I have been alive. So I am an idiot if I don’t listen to him, if I don’t ask questions about the history of our church. Leaders who don’t listen to those who went before them are foolish. Because church ministry offers its fair share of painful moments, not all the history is pleasant to recount. Thus sharing history and the lessons learned from it is a sacrifice.

6. With care for the family

Kenton and Laurie (his wife) have cared deeply for Kaye and our daughters. One of the best encouragements they gave early was to do everything we could to help our kids love being at the church – which included swimming in the lake at the church.

7. With encouragement to make changes

Several times I have called Kenton about a change I want to make, to get his perspective. They are not big changes, but changes nonetheless – things like a change in scheduling devotionals on a retreat. Kenton has said, “You should make that change” multiple times and has reminded me that if he were still leading “he would make changes too.” Many outgoing leaders like the idea of succession as long as everything stays the same, which is a clear indication the leader is not really ready for succession.

8. With private coaching

I have a TON of growing to do. Kenton has a ton of wisdom to offer. How can a predecessor provide wisdom without diminishing the successor’s credibility? This is likely one of the biggest challenges facing the predecessor. In regularly scheduled private meetings, Kenton uses that time well. He is there to give coaching, as I need it. And I do. He wants to help, sees ways he can help, but simultaneously wants to affirm. Conversations in private are the place for that.

For leaders considering a transition, a succession, I encourage you to evaluate if you are ready to offer these. My gut feeling is that some of the leaders who are telling Kenton they are ready to transition are not yet in the place where they can offer their successor what Kenton is offering me.

> Read more from Eric.


 

To learn more about a healthy succession and transition process, connect with an Auxano navigator.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Eric Geiger

Eric Geiger

Eric Geiger is the Senior Pastor of Mariners Church in Irvine, California. Before moving to Southern California, Eric served as senior vice-president for LifeWay Christian. Eric received his doctorate in leadership and church ministry from Southern Seminary. Eric has authored or co-authored several books including the best selling church leadership book, Simple Church. Eric is married to Kaye, and they have two daughters: Eden and Evie. During his free time, Eric enjoys dating his wife, taking his daughters to the beach, and playing basketball.

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COMMENTS

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

The Eight Costs of the Pastoral Succession Crisis: Part 1 – Personal Costs

The challenge of pastoral succession is a topic of increasing interest for good reason. In the next decade we will see an unprecedented number of pastors hitting retirement age. In a recent study by Barna Research, we learn that the average age of pastors has increased by 10 years over the last 25 years and is currently age 54. In 2017, only 1 of 7 pastors are under age 40. In some denominations, the age is even higher. For example, one denomination, using Auxano’s new pastoral succession toolbox, has a much higher average age than the national norm–40% of it’s pastors are over age 60! 

But rather than focusing on the stats of pastoral succession and the coming wave of aging pastors, let’s take a closer look at what happens if we don’t “get succession right.” As a reader you are most likely aware that pastoral succession is a challenging and emotional topic to address for many church leaders. The purpose of this article is to wave a red flag with a spirit that says, “We must have this conversation.” For many church leaders that conversation needs to happen sooner than later. What really is at stake if a senior pastor fails to pass the baton to the next senior pastor? What kind of loss will a church experience if it doesn’t lovingly address this crucial topic at the right time? 

To capture the weight of the crisis, I will cover eight costs: four through the personal lens of the pastor himself and four through the lens of the congregation and the resulting broader impact. 

The Four Costs to Pastor

Failure to Thrive, Personally

The first cost to the pastor is the overall inability to thrive at a special season in ministry where transition is normative physically, logically and biblically for a leader.  As Will Heath, Auxano’s lead navigator for pastoral succession, shares often: “Every leader must move through the natural ministry seasons from “preparing” to  “doing” and then to “mentoring.” For example, a Levite priest in the Old Testament shifted the kind of work they performed at age 50.  Heath uses this biblical pattern as a guideline for helping pastors shift their “ministry season” to one of increased mentoring. I like the metaphor used by Bob Buford that leaders should navigate a journey from “warrior” to “king” to “sage.” The failure of succession planning keeps leaders working like warriors–laboring heavily like younger men do– when they should be transitioning to a “sage” stage where their experience and wisdom does the “heavy lifting” of work. 

Collapse of Trust, Relationally

Usually, people around the leader see clearly the “emotional block” and unwillingness to think through the succession planning question. Over time some of the best and most trusted relationships for the leader, start loosing the bond of solidarity. Ranging from mildly awkward to downright toxic, the entire dynamic of the leadership will shift. If the people in pastor’s sphere of influence are a leadership constellation, the stars will soon begin falling. 

Lack of Equipping, Strategically

The irony for the senior pastor who is not preparing to transition is that they rob themselves of the beauty of ministry in the final chapter– one that can and should be defined by equipping others. Robert Clinton in his classic work, The Making of Leader, emphasizes that the greatest fruitfulness in ministry comes in the later years as leaders lead from depth of character and a lifelong of learning. Pastors in their fifties, sixties and seventies have a bank vault of wealth to give away from their personal experiences, but often do so incidentally rather than intentionally. This is most evidenced in how they do the same thing the same way year after year in ministry. That is, they don’t change the mix of “doing ministry” and “developing others.” To use one of my favorite metaphors from Jim Collins they refuse to transition from “time telling” to “clock making.” They simply don’t invest into other leaders who will make the church stronger when their season of leading is finished. 

Forfeit of Legacy, Permanently

The most heartbreaking cost, short of moral failure, is the loss of a leader’s legacy when pastoring the flock long beyond their season of effectiveness. Again, it’s so easy for a senior pastor to be blind to their decreasing value as a “ ministry doer.” (Again, they might have amazing fruit as a “leader developer” but they don’t make the transition.) No matter how well a pastor leads over their lifetime, how they finish will mark how they are remembered. It’s like an airplane ride: it doesn’t matter how well your flight attendant service was at 30,000 feet if the plane crash lands. 

As you can imagine, the cost is very high for the leader who refuses to build a meaningful succession plan. But that’s not the entire picture, as the costs are even higher for the church. In a follow-up post will walk through the next four costs below. 

The Four Costs to Church

  • Loss of Momentum, Organizationally
  • Drain of Enthusiasm, Silently
  • Death of Humility, Symbolically
  • Fumbling of Influence, Culturally

What is a Pastor to Do?

Are you at a point to starting thinking about the succession conversation? Are you on a team to where this conversation is overdue?

Think about it: How will people celebrate your leadership when your day at the helm is done? It’s not too soon to prepare.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Will Mancini

Will Mancini

Will Mancini wants you and your ministry to experience the benefits of stunning, God-given clarity. As a pastor turned vision coach, Will has worked with an unprecedented variety of churches from growing megachurches and missional communities, to mainline revitalization and church plants. He is the founder of Auxano, creator of VisionRoom.com and the author of God Dreams and Church Unique.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Succession Is: A Shift in Stewardship

The farmer’s day-to-day activities look different from season to season.  Sure, some things are the same, but his changing priorities have a significant impact on how he manages his time from season to season.  The activities required to plant a field are very different than the things required to harvest it.  The various activities that demonstrate a farmer’s stewardship in one season are different than the activities that demonstrate his stewardship in the next.

This is easy to understand, right?  Let me ask you a question.  Would you consider the farmer to be a good steward if he plowed his field during a time of harvest?  Of course not.  Why?  Plowing the field is what you do to prepare the soil for seed.  Plowing at harvest would destroy the crop.  This isn’t stewardship, it’s stupidity.

Here’s the point.  A commitment to stewardship implies a willingness to allow the change in season to result in a change in activity.

To illustrate further, let’s take a look at how the Bible exposes us to two distinct aspects of time.  Kronos is measured time.  This is where we derive our modern word “chronology.”  The Bible expresses Kronos with references to hours, days, months, years, etc…  Kairos, on the other hand, is seasonal time.  Unlike Kronos, Kairos is not constrained to specific measurements.  Here is an example.

For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers…Acts 13:36, ESV

The “in his own generation” is a reference to the kairos in which God placed David in history.

One of my frustrations with the capital campaign industry in the church space over the past 30 years is that it has fostered a teaching of stewardship that predominately followed the categories of time, talent and treasure.  These are all Kronos expressions.  What has developed is a limited sensitivity and discernment for what stewardship actually is and how stewarding one’s kairosimpacts their life.  To illustrate my point, ask someone at church to illustrate the topic of stewardship with a picture.  I’m willing to bet 80% would draw a dollar sign or some other representation of currency.

What does this have to do with succession planning?

Everything!

The Church in America is experiencing a seismic shift in leadership.  Pastors, by the thousands, are aging into a new season of influence.  They are about to enter their retirement years.  As with the farmer, the leaders that do not adjust their activity (Kronos) to the reality of their changing season (Kairos) will no longer demonstrate good stewardship.  Indeed, succession planning is one of the biggest stewardship challenges the Church in America will face over the next 5-7 years.

In the same way the capital campaign industry helped foster a narrow perspective on stewardship, the search industry is fostering a narrow perspective on leadership transitions.  As I wrote in the first post of this series, succession planning and replacement planning are not the same thing.  Trying to navigate a planned leadership transition through the lens of replacement planning is like using a dollar symbol to define stewardship.  Yes, it is part of the conversation, but there is so much more to discuss and account for.

We are at a time where pastors need to be like the men of Issachar; men who understand of their times and know what they ought to do. (1 Chronicles 12:32)

Or, to say it another way, we need pastors who are willing to allow the reality of their changing kairos to determine their kronos.  We need pastors to shift their stewardship.

> Read more from Will.


Want to learn more about pastoral succession? Connect with an Auxano Navigator and start a conversation with our team.

 

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| What is MyVisionRoom? > | Back to Leadership >

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Will Heath

Will Heath

Will Heath is a unique voice on the topic of succession planning. He has served the local church for over 20 years in a variety of ways: serving bi-vocationally, as an Executive Pastor and consultant. His ministry and professional background have afforded him rare, front-row access to succession plans at various stages of development and implementation in the business, ministry and nonprofit community in Dallas, TX. In 2010, Will commissioned (and personally funded) a national survey of 600 pastors on the issue of retirement based transitions. In 2012, he began speaking at conferences and consulting with ministry leaders in the area of succession planning. Will joined the Auxano team in 2015. He leads the initiative to help ministries understand how to effectively navigate seasons of leadership transition. Will lives in the booming metropolis of Murphy, TX with his wife Ali and their two girls. In his spare time, he enjoys coaching high jump for their local summer track club, disc golf (RHBH) and volleyball. In 2014, Will had the honor of being selected to serve as a Board Member for Christar, a missions agency that plants churches in the context of least reached people groups.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

What Process Do You Have in Place for Succession Planning?

Here are five common questions leaders wrestle through when trying to decide what their succession planning process should look like.

Q – WHAT DO YOUR GOVERNING DOCUMENTS REQUIRE?

Don’t expect a lot of guidance here.  Most Constitution and Bylaws only speak to replacement planning and are silent on the broader issue of succession planning.  Consequently, the selection of a broader succession planning process is influenced by other factors.

Q – WHAT IS THE REASON YOU ARE YOU DEVELOPING A SUCCESSION PLAN?

An unexpected transition may push you towards one process option while a planned transition would push you towards another.  The “Intentional Interim” is often the process of choice in emergency transition situations.  The “Stop and Go” and “Overlap” options work well when you have time to plan ahead.

Q – WILL THE CURRENT LEADER STAY ENGAGED IN THE MINISTRY AFTER RETIREMENT?

If so, you may lean towards the “Stop and Go” or “Overlap.”  The answer to this question will also influence how you account for each of the five Signposts as you develop your succession planning strategy.

 Q – HOW “HEALTHY” IS YOUR MINISTRY?

Some ministries have a healthy culture.  Other ministries, however, face significant challenges. Healthy ministries tend to implement the “Stop and Go” or “Overlap” options while troubled ministries tend to utilize the “Intentional Interim.”

 Q – DO YOU NEED AN OIL CHANGE OR AN OVERHAUL?

If you are happy with your programming methodology the “Stop and Go” or “Overlap” will more than likely be your go to options.  If you sense the need for a fundamental change in direction you may consider the “Stop and Go” or “Intentional Interim.”

Getting key stakeholders to agree on this question can prove difficult.  This is why we recommend starting the succession planning process as early as possible.  Giving your team enough time to prayerfully evaluate key areas and work through issues is always a good course of action.

The three Process Options referenced above are the Stop and Go, Intentional Interim and Overlap.

Click HERE for a brief description of each.

> Read more from Will.


 Do you need to know more ideas about succession planning for your organization? Connect with an Auxano Navigator and start a conversation with our team.

Download PDF

Tags: , , ,

| What is MyVisionRoom? > | Back to Leadership >

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Will Heath

Will Heath

Will Heath is a unique voice on the topic of succession planning. He has served the local church for over 20 years in a variety of ways: serving bi-vocationally, as an Executive Pastor and consultant. His ministry and professional background have afforded him rare, front-row access to succession plans at various stages of development and implementation in the business, ministry and nonprofit community in Dallas, TX. In 2010, Will commissioned (and personally funded) a national survey of 600 pastors on the issue of retirement based transitions. In 2012, he began speaking at conferences and consulting with ministry leaders in the area of succession planning. Will joined the Auxano team in 2015. He leads the initiative to help ministries understand how to effectively navigate seasons of leadership transition. Will lives in the booming metropolis of Murphy, TX with his wife Ali and their two girls. In his spare time, he enjoys coaching high jump for their local summer track club, disc golf (RHBH) and volleyball. In 2014, Will had the honor of being selected to serve as a Board Member for Christar, a missions agency that plants churches in the context of least reached people groups.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.