There’s no denying that transitions are uncomfortable. It’s an in-between time when things feel out of control and are often chaotic. Nerves are often fried, tensions are high, you may even feel lost. It is possible to navigate transitions well and the biggest tip is to have the right person alongside you to bring encouragement, support, and to spur you on. 

The Nature of Transitions

the nature of transitions

Transitions include psychological, mental, emotional, and spiritual processes for dealing with change. Changes can be positive, negative, neutral or mixed, big or small. But they all require some degree of adjustment on our part. 

  • positive change like getting a better job
  • negative – like the death of a loved one
  • mixed – like kids going off to college 
  • neutral – like getting a new phone, rearranging your desk, or adjusting to an updated computer program

Change itself often happens almost instantaneously. However, our process of dealing with that change can take much longer. We’ve lived through this when COVID everything shut down in March 2020. Almost everything changed all at once. Shopping, medical care, work, church gatherings, social connections, etc. This adjustment process takes longer and is more intense for bigger changes, but all change requires a process.

I’ve found Bridges Transitions Model especially helpful. He considers the three phases of change: Endings, Neutral Zone, and New Beginnings


When something changes, we have a lot to let go of. We have old habits and elements of our lives that won’t happen anymore. Many of these endings result in losses, sometimes significant losses. We usually build our lives with elements that bring us joy and love and the structure to get various things that we need. When those elements are gone, life becomes more difficult for us on many levels.

Neutral Zone

As things end, we enter a space that this chart calls the Neutral Zone. The Neutral Zone is a difficult place where old things have ended but new things haven’t yet become established. Time in the Neutral Zone can be sad, confusing, and difficult. We are mourning losses at the same time as trying to figure out how to move forward. When we stop trying to find a way back to the things in life that have ended, we are able to move into things that are ready to begin. 

New Beginnings

Once we have done the work in the Neutral Zone, we can move into New Beginnings. If we don’t do the work in the Neutral Zone though, we can never really transition into our New Beginnings. When we have mourned our losses, we are ready to welcome new people and new experiences into our lives again. When we have broken our old habits, we are prepared to develop new ones. When we stop looking for apples in the old aisle, we can get them where they are now. 

Big takeaway #1

Change is sudden. Transition is slow. And this is all normal. That’s what transition looks like for everyone. We need to take the time to adjust, to mourn, and to envision what a new future could look like. 

Big takeaway #2

God works miracles in the Neutral Zone. The biblical words for the Neutral Zone are the wilderness or the desert. We see a lot of places in scripture where people are out in the wilderness and amazing things happen: Jesus spending forty days in the wilderness before beginning his public ministry. The Israelites spending forty years in the wilderness, wandering through the Neutral Zone. Paul’s time of blindness after his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus. All of these were times of transition and adjustment to a new reality. 

You need a Barnabas in your corner

Many of you who know me know my fondness for Barnabas. He’s my favorite character in the Bible. Barnabas was the “son of encouragement”—someone who encourages, supports, and spurs on. It’s someone who challenges when needed, listens, and asks good questions. A Barnabas wants others to succeed and connects them with the resources they need to do so. Much of my coaching philosophy is modeled after Barnabas.

It’s always good to have a Barnabas in your corner—we all need someone like that in our lives. But you REALLY need a Barnabas during times of transition. When you come to a crossroads and aren’t sure what to do next. When you can’t clearly see the way ahead.

When you are in the Neutral Zone, a Barnabas can help you reflect on where you currently are, help you discover what God is up to, give you a chance to draw close to God, and discern his leading to begin figuring out what’s next. Transition is difficult, but it can lead to hope for a brighter future. There is hope in moving forward. 

Resources for Transitions

If you need a Barnabas, you need coach. Navigating personal transitions, like changing jobs or retiring, or organizational change, like installing a new initiative or a working in a transitional pastor role, can be equally challenging. A coach is a sounding board to help you clarify vision, goals, and next steps—someone to help you navigate the chaos and help you accomplish your goals with excellence. There is no need to go it alone. If you are navigating transition, I have a couple of spots open to new coaching clients. Email to learn more.

Do you want to be a Barnabas to others? I’ve got two great resources for you! Start with Becoming Barnabas. This short book outlines the powerful principles found in Barnabas’ ministry. For practical application, look to Christian Coaching Essentials. This new work covers the basics of coaching with thorough explanation and exercises you can put into practice right away. 

For more coaching tools, check out my coaching website,

Photo by Bankim Desai on Unsplash