Transition is something we are almost always uncomfortable with. Change is hard for everyone. It’s no different in ministry. At the same time, it’s inevitable for growth and progress. If a ministry is alive, it will change. Yet one casualty of change can be individuals who may feel they are being left behind by the changes on the horizon. What do we do with them? How do we honor them well and treat them with dignity?
Two things are important to keep in mind when navigating personnel changes:
- Don’t stop growth because you don’t want to make a tough choice. One person doesn’t have the right to diminish the overall effectiveness of the church community.
- Also, you don’t want to be mean and communicate to people that their usefulness is done. It isn’t. God most definitely has something next for them.
Let’s say a person serves faithfully for a long time in a particular area. And that area grows and develops and changes. Often, there is a new or different type of skill set needed to make this transition and the original person is not suited for the task. What do you do?
At this point, there is a choice. You can remove them from that role. You find a way to work around them. Or you can leave them in that role and diminish the overall potential and effectiveness of the ministry. In my experience, 80% of senior leaders would choose the third option. Why? Because it avoids conflict and the potential for hurt feelings.
What about another option?
Treat them with honor and respect as you help them discern what that new thing is God wants for them.
As my church grew, I discerned the need to transition someone off of my leadership team. He was a good man, but he wasn’t able to do what was needed for this next level of growth in the church. Originally the leadership team was a work group. It was about getting certain concrete tasks done, and this man was good in that role. But moving forward we needed people who had the capacity to think big picture, to see the whole without getting lost in the details. A certain capacity for critical and long-range strategic thinking was required for what he had to do next. For this man, that capacity simply wasn’t part of his gift set.
I took 4 steps to help him through the transition: we sat down and together identified his core gifts and strengths, identified a role that would be an ideal new ministry spot for him, honored his past service publicly and announced the transition to his new role, and I continued to stay in touch and provided pastoral care. Here is what that looks like:
1. Identify core gifts and strengths
There are a multitude of ways to do this. Personality, strengths, and/or spiritual gifts tests can be really helpful. Overall, God made this person with intention and for a purpose. Your goal here is to help them see that more clearly.God makes people with intention and for a purpose. Your job is to help them see that more clearly. Click To Tweet
2. Identify a more ideal ministry role
Just because someone no longer fits in a particular role, doesn’t mean that they don’t have an important role to play. It is an incredible feeling to be confident that you are where God can use you to do great things. Your goal here is to connect gifts and strengths with passion.Just because someone no longer fits in a particular role, doesn’t mean that they don’t have an important role to play. Click To Tweet
3. Honor the past and announce the new role
This is so important. Even in the best of circumstances, even if you are excellent and the person is receptive in steps 1 and 2, there will be a painful pang to this transition. Transition always involves loss. Your goal here is two-fold: by celebrating what God has done you help the person (and others) both let go of the old and look forward to the new.Transition always involves loss. By celebrating what God has done you help people both let go of the old and look forward to the new. Click To Tweet
4. Stay in touch and provide pastoral care
You can undo all the work you did in steps 1-3 if you don’t follow up with genuine care and encouragement. Intended or unintended, abandoning this person speaks to the authenticity of your intentions for the change and could lead to gossip and division. You are their pastor. Love them well.Abandoning people during transitions speaks to the authenticity of your intentions for the change and could lead to gossip and division. You are their pastor. Love them well. Click To Tweet
In the end, everyone needs to shift roles sometimes, and it’s not a matter of shifting up or down… not in the Kingdom of God. Every person needs to be treated with dignity and everyone’s contribution needs to be honored. We all need someone to come alongside us in a discernment process about what our next contributions might be.
What changes are afoot right now in your ministry? What shifting roles and gifts might be required to make that transition well?
Barnabas Study! Over the six weeks of Lent, our blog posts will consist of devotionals surrounding one of my favorite biblical personages. Barnabas was marked with humility, wisdom, and encouragement. A fantastic meditation for the Lenten season! Join us as we look at the impact Barnabas made with practical application so that we too can make a difference like Barnabas!
The Leadership Difference- Effective ministry leadership begins with learning the Bible and theology, but we can also learn practical skills from others who have gone before us. If you are running up against barriers that aren’t specifically theological but are more about how to lead people and get along with them as you work together, The Leadership Difference is for you.
Coaching 101- God has something for each person to accomplish. We are successful when we find out what part that is and learn to play it well. Coaching 101 will help you discover the power of coaching in your life both as a coach and as someone being coached.
Coaching 101 Handbook- The Coaching 101 Handbook is a resource designed to help leaders apply the practical principles introduced in Coaching 101 and begin the journey of becoming a more effective coach.
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