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Transition Season

Jay Hostetler, January 25, 2016

Do you see the dog in the far left corner of the picture? Her name is Riesling and she’s peeking through the fence.  Do you think she wonders if the “snow is whiter on the other side”?

It’s that time of year when the “transition season” begins. Often staff pastors become discouraged and disengaged with their present situation and begin to look for another place to serve, and churches begin the process of replacing them. This season can range between 6 weeks–6 months long for any church.

As long as there have been leaders, there have been leadership transitions. In his meaningful book, The First 90 Days, Michael Watkins, transition expert, details the values and practices necessary to start out right. His focus on assessing the new situation and building coalitions to be productive are insightful.

Ministry transitions are inevitable and a staggering 40,000 pastors transition each year according to Leadership Network. In our consulting and coaching world we have found that these transitions can be a great benefit for a church but they can be awkward. We’ve learned much from our clients (church leaders & candidates) to make this process more effective.

Challenges of the Teamplayers 

The Church

  • May or may not know the purpose of the new hire. Perhaps the role has changed or needs to be modified.
  • May not have effectively cleared the runway of previous issues which may hamper the new hire. Are there unanswered questions resulting from the transition or unaddressed challenges facing the newbie?
  • May or may not have a well-planned process for communicating with potential candidates. This is critical, often overlooked and may affect the timing for getting the best hire. 
  • May not have good on-boarding protocols. These protocols are critical to make a successful transition from the previously “well-loved” or perhaps “disliked” staff person.

The New Hire

  • May be looking for a fresh start but doesn’t have a strategy. Perhaps they just hope to find a new position quickly!
  • Needs to fully understand the role and the expectations.
  • Starts too fast, or starts too slow.  Need to understand and evaluate the present status of the ministry and identify priorities.
  • May struggle with making the right relationships or determining the best first steps to be productive in the new space. The first 90 days are critical to establish these and gain early wins. 

At MinistryWave we have experience working with churches and candidates in transition. With the above listed issues looming, we recommend that churches do their homework and that candidates take their time choosing their next ministry location. An objective viewpoint is crucial during the transition months and the upstart of the new hire. We will provide that.

Give us a call to explore our ideas on leadership transitions. We want you to have the right hire, make the transition positive, and help them get off the ground running, so the snow really is whiter at your church.


Riesling lives in East Wenatchee, WA 


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