Changes have big impact on people. How many times have you tried to implement a good and needed change only to be met with serious resistance? You may be trying to change service times, introducing a new small group curriculum, upgrading your children’s ministry procedures, or hiring new leadership. No matter the size of the change, helping people transition well is the key to success.

Walking people through transitions

managing transition

Handling transitions well is a key competency for ministry leaders. People need to adjust and adapt to any changes that come their way and part of the role of a leader is to shepherd them through that process. 

As you think through the strategies below, note that they apply to both welcome and unwelcome transitions, those changes you have invited and those that have been thrust upon you. The strategies can also be applied equally well to shepherding those you are leading in your ministry through a corporate transition—or how to approach an individual or family transition in your personal life. I recommend applying them across the board. 

Ten Strategies for Handling Transition Well

1. Recognize that transition is a natural part of life.

It’s part of the lifecycle–how God created us. We aren’t going to be able to avoid transitions. They are necessary and inevitable. The question is not whether we handle transitions, but how we handle them. 

2. Validate that transition is difficult.

Most of us naturally dislike change–it’s uncomfortable. All feelings are valid. It’s natural for people to feel happy, sad, anxious, fearful, defensive, etc. Give people permission to feel whatever they feel.

3. Mourn what needs to be mourned.

Even if the transition you are facing is a good or welcome one, it still brings with it a sense of loss. There are things people will miss. Be intentional about mourning them. It’s okay to be sad.

4. Celebrate what needs to be celebrated.

Always take time to celebrate the past and the accomplishments that have been made– even if it wasn’t perfect or all you hoped it would be. Be intentional about celebrating what you can and honoring what you can.

5. Accept that every change is a mix of celebration and mourning.

There is a tension inherent in all change. Even something good like having a baby is a mix. You’re excited about the baby. But you’re mourning your younger days when you were free to go out whenever you wanted with far less responsibility. The challenge is to celebrate and honor the old at the same time as you make way for and get excited about the new. 

6. Avail yourself of help as you are in transition.

When you are lost, ask directions. Find people who can serve as resources for you. Find people who can support you. Who has already gone through a similar transition? What can you learn from them? Depending on the transition, consider enlisting a coach, a therapist, a spiritual director, etc. 

7. Adjust your time in response to the new reality.

Most transitions will have some impact on how you spend your time. What new responsibilities or tasks will you have? Which will you be letting go? What new relationships will you need to invest in? Which will you be letting go? What new skills might you need to develop? Consider the impacts this transition will likely have on your time and adjust how you spend your days and your weeks accordingly. 

8. Adjust your finances in response to the new reality.

Many transitions also bring financial changes along with them. What impact will this transition have on your finances or those of your organization? For instance, having a new baby will certainly bring new expenses, but you might also not have as many expenses in some areas, such as restaurants or travel. If you receive a raise, what is the most strategic use of the new income? If you now have additional expenses, how will you account for those? Think ahead and plan accordingly. 

9. Create structures to help you in the new reality.

We all need prompts. What structures can you put into your daily life to make these new changes easier to manage? For example, if you have had a health problem and now need to take a medication twice daily, maybe you decide to take it after breakfast and after dinner as a way to remember. Maybe you have a pill box so you can keep track of your doses. Lists are often helpful for keeping us on track during times of uncertainty. Consider what kinds of guardrails might help you stay on track. 

10. Embrace the opportunities you find.

Most transitions lead to unexpected opportunities–a move that brings you some great new neighbors, a new school that offers an extracurricular activity you’ve always wanted to try, the gift of more free time. Consider how to make the most of those unexpected opportunities. 


Managing Transitions by William Bridges*- One of the best books I’ve read on transition!. Although the points above are not taken directly from that book, much of my thinking on the whole topic of transitions has been shaped by the model Bridges sets forth in his book.

Change Management Effectiveness Profile– If you want to manage change better, the first step is to identify your strengths and weaknesses on the topic. This simple assessment will show you the skills you need to develop in order to manage change well.

Change Management Skill Builder Booklet– Once you know have targeted the areas where you need to grow, this simple booklet is powerful in the hands of a self learner!

Photo by Warren on Unsplash

* Amazon Affiliate link