Transition tips for pastors moving to a new church
Compiled by Micheal Selleck with assistance from Patti Coppage, Bob Winstead, Phil Schroeder and others
The idea that once your appointment is announced the pastor becomes a ‘lame duck’ is a myth, and according to Edwin Friedman in his book, “Generation to Generation,” it is, to say the very least, also shortsighted. The change of leaders is one of the most emotionally charged events any family system endures. The nature of your separation from a congregation can have more lasting effects in that
congregation than all your previous years of effort to build and shape the faith within that church family.
How you function through the leaving process may make a more lasting witness to your faith and the gospel you proclaim than all your passionately preached messages from the pulpit.
The suggestions here are not exhaustive in any sense. These are just some that ought to be given consideration.
Personal checklist for a departing pastor
Listed below are some questions that Bob Winstead uses to help manage stress and dig under the layers of protection we put up to protect ourselves from hurt and pain.
Ø What do you consider your most important accomplishments in this congregation?
Ø What will you miss most about this place and this ministry? What are you not going to miss?
Ø Were there things you had hoped to do but were not able to accomplish?
Ø Write out one incident you handled well that you might use as a model in the future.
Ø Write out one incident you managed poorly and wish you could do over again.
Ø Name five people on whose lives you feel you have made a significant impact.
Ø What in this ministry took the heaviest toll on your body and spirit?
Ø During your tenure, was there any time you felt this congregation let you down? Describe why you felt that way. To what degree have you recovered from the experience?
Ø Thinking of the future of this congregation, what would you say is its unrealized potential?
Ø What will be some of the difficult challenges your successor will have to face?
Ø Who are some of the people you will miss most? Who are the people who will have difficulty seeing you leave?
ØHave you made a list of things you have normally taken care of that someone will have to be responsible for during the transition? If no, how and when will you make it?
Departing pastor’s checklist for saying goodbye to a church
1. Deal with your personnel issues
If you cannot actually fix the big problems as you depart, at least set the stage for changes that may come soon. Please consider not leaving an urgent negative situation for the new pastor.
2. Have an honest conversation with the new pastor
For lead pastors, once you know who is coming in after you, call and offer congratulations, support, and a chance to meet on neutral turf to have some holy conversation.
Issues for conversation:
· Key players who are helpful and committed.
· Information about how the church structure works â€Â on paper and in reality (if they’re different.)
· Key calendar events that need attention and attendance.
· Any plans for new programs, staff, buildings, etc.
· Status of sick and dying, shutâ€Âin’s, and elderly, and recent deaths of note
· Establish mutually agreed upon rules for funerals, weddings, baptisms.
· How you will handle parishioners who call you for advice, comments, etc.?
3. Clean up your office computer
Clean up computer and picture files that won’t be helpful or necessary for the next pastor. Especially personal eâ€Âmail addresses, any personal correspondence, family photos, and ‘favorite’ browser sites, downloads, histories, and the like.
4. Forward your mail and update contact info
This is a time consuming step, but a very necessary one. Few things begin to chaff at the new pastor than daily receiving piles of mail addressed to the pervious pastor, not months after the fact, but years. Notify the post office of your change of address. From your local post office, you can pick up change of
address packets, including change of address postcards.
5. Stamped envelopes through the end of the year
As much as you try to stop it, mail will still come to you at your previous address. You can ease some of the drudgery of your successor trying to determine what should be forwarded or is fodder for the circular file, and how quickly kept mail needs to get to you, by providing this easy option.
6. Take care of your part of the parsonage prep
If you have been living in a parsonage, work hard to leave it in better shape than when you moved in. This especially applies to damages from pets and hard use from your family. Items such as this are your responsibility, not the church trustees.
7. A pastorally notated pictorial directory (confidential)
If there is a congregational directory (pictorial or otherwise) have the current pastor make annotations alongside the pictures or names of parishioners. Leaving a quick notation of who is in leadership, or who is related to whom, who is active, and similar brief nonâ€Âjudgmental details, can greatly assist the new pastor
in getting to know folks more quickly and avoid missteps. This item should be confidential between the two pastors.
8. Ask your successor what you can do to be helpful.
Remember that both of you are colleagues in ministry and both are going through the challenge of a new appointment. Pray and discuss how you can be mutually supportive of one another in the process.
9. Organize and update all church records
· Be sure the membership roll is current and upâ€Âtoâ€Âdate
· Provide a list of all changes to the roll since the last charge conference.
· Provide a record of baptism and marriages
· Provide pertinent files: Charge Conference records, Annual Report Forms, Evangelism Reports, etc.
10. Hospitals and Homes
Provide a list of area hospitals and nursing homes with their phone numbers and information about how to obtain clergy identification, if needed.
Leave a copy of all church policies â€Â Safe Sanctuaries, building use, weddings, funerals, personnel, etc. Leave information in reference to any ongoing arrangements with individual groups â€Â AA, Boy or Girl Scouts, etc.
12. Church schedule
Provide a meeting schedule for Board/Council, Committees, UMM, UMW, UMY, etc. Provide dates for events scheduled by the church. Include annual events such as Christmas Bazaar, Soup Kitchen, Motherâ€ÂDaughter dinners, etc.Provide information pertaining to pending legal matters â€Â wills, possible liability situations.
13. The church building
Leave your set of keys, well defined.
Provide name(s) and phone numbers of those who open/close the building(s) on Sundays. Make sure, as much as possible, to gather any warranties, maintenance contracts, and manuals on all office equipment, heating/cooling systems, etc. Be sure your church office is cleaned thoroughly and in good repair.
Leave a list of any maintenance items requiring attention or a schedule of things on the docket.
14. Parsonage administration
· Leave a set of keys, well defined.
· Put together a file of all appliance manuals and warranties â€Â refrigerator, dishwasher, washer, dryer, heating/air conditioning unit, etc.
· Identify switches or fuse box circuits.
15. Household checklist
At least a month before moving day begin to gather moving supplies, boxes, tape, and markers. Choose reputable movers. Ask for suggestions from the church or current pastor of where you’re going regarding ones with whom they have had good experiences. Consider getting estimates from movers where you now live and from your destination.
16. About two weeks before moving
Be sure all utilities are in the churches name to avoid the need for security deposits and to ensure the current phone number will be continued. If the phone and utilities are in the current pastor’s name, you will need to request they be listed in the churches name or the new pastor. Notify your insurance company of the changes to your household and/or car insurance policy address