Thursday, June 13, 2024
Thursday, June 13, 2024
HomeAll The NewsHEALTHY CHURCH: Transitions


         No one stays at a church or on staff forever, even senior pastors. The national average for leadership tenure is way too low, every three to four years according to Church Answers. The day will come that either the pastor will move on or step aside from pastoring. In Pastoral Transitions by Dr. Gary Smith he says, “We have to remember that we are all interim pastors.” Jesus left His disciples when He ascended back to the Father. Paul left the churches in Ephesus and several other places where he planted churches and watched them grow. You should consider a succession plan and all leaders need to be focusing on who they are preparing for that transition.

      The following content can be found in our Senior Pastor Transition Checklist put together by our team at BMA Global: Healthy Church Solutions. Please let us know and we will be happy to send it to you.

      Passing the baton is critical to winning relay races. Success or failure depends not only on how fast the runners run, but how well they transfer the baton. Muddling the transfer or dropping the baton will lose time. It can result in losing the race. We want to help you transfer the baton successfully. I Corinthians 3:6 (NIV) states, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.” Every church will deal with transitions.

      Some might like the idea of staying a long time, thinking, “I’ll be here ‘til I die.” Others might be thinking, “I cannot wait till God moves me on.” In any event, remember Tim Keller’s paper, Leadership and Church Size Dynamics: “The current church size may mean you no longer have the leadership and spiritual gifts to take it to the next level. In either case, we should prepare for the inevitable change of pastors whether it is in 1, 5, 10, 25 or 50 years.”

      Side note: you can grow with the church if you are willing to grow yourself by remaining a lifelong learner. When you stop learning, you stop growing.

      A poor transition can greatly hinder or even destroy the church. Unfortunately, stories abound of churches that have faltered and even died during the transition from one pastor to the next pastor. The importance of having a God-initiated plan in place cannot be overstated. Here is the other side — a good transition to the right leader can result in significant ministry growth. Many transitions result in a flourishing ministry. Some pastors have the giftedness to start, restart or revive a church and lead it to a certain level. Look for a leader who knows how to stimulate growth and continue growth. It is never too late for a new beginning.

      Be careful not to relive past bad experiences and begin this journey seeking God and having faith in His process. It is easy to have flashbacks of nightmarish experiences in a pastoral transition, but this does not have to be (YourUnhealthyChurch2.0). A successful transition depends on prayer (much prayer) and the work of God. The entire process must be bathed in prayer and dependence on God. While looking to Him for direction you must also do your due diligence to seek the right man, at the right time, in the right place. You should consider examining all of the following:

      • Testimony of salvation and call to the ministry.

      • Testimony from the wife of her salvation and of her support for her husband’s ministry and willingness to go wherever the Lord leads. They are a team.

      • A resume that shows ministry experience, education and other pertinent information.

      • A copy of a recently preached message.

      • Their understanding of the BMA Doctrinal statement.

      • A clear, written philosophy of ministry and where they would desire to lead any New Testament church.

      Do not be afraid to ask many questions because now is the time to ask. Here are some things your church needs to know from the potential candidate:

      • What are your core values?

      • How do you view the Great Commission and God’s mission?

      • How will you lead a church in developing a vision for it to carry out God’s mission for them?

      • How do you plan to engage a community with the gospel?

      There are benefits to finding the pastor from inside the church, whether on staff or not. You will have observed their character and their competency as a leader. You will have observed how they connect with the community and how others-focused they are. Have they been actively on board with the church’s vision?

      In a senior pastor transition, and for that matter any staff position, there are questions you need to ask the potential leader and questions you need to be able to answer as well. “What is your plan for discipleship and leadership development? What should leadership look like, and how would you build a team? How would you articulate historical biblical doctrine?” Consider taking our Healthy Church Solutions Church Health Assessment. This will enable you to see what areas your church is healthy and what you, as a church, can celebrate.

      It is also vitally important to see where you as a congregation are unhealthy (See Rev. 2-3) and what you need to repent of as a church. The Scriptures remind us several times of the importance of self-examination, but also a time for congregational examination. This enables you to begin working on the areas that are unhealthy. Remember to form a prayer team immediately for this process before you enter it, while you are in it and afterward as well. Lead in prayer and fasting! Schedule and organize congregational prayer events! Consider a season of prayer and utilizing Gary Rohrmayer’s 21 Days of Prayer booklets (

      Be willing to repent of sin. Pray for unity and a willingness to do whatever God requires for His church to thrive and flourish. Make sure all conflict is dealt with and not swept under the carpet. Bury the past and be ready to embrace the future. It is never too late for a new beginning.

      If we can help you in any way, please reach out to us at We would be happy to send you the booklet and other resources.