“Every pastor is an interim pastor.”
That statement kicks off a frank, yet compassionate book by Warren Bird and William Vanderbloemen. Written to pastors, with the church board in-mind as well, the authors address what can be an awkward issue of succession planning.
Let’s face it…unless the Lord returns while you’re the pastor of your church, someone else will eventually be the new pastor. It’s largely up to you to set this new pastor (and the congregation) up for success.
The book includes three main sections:
Part 1: Why Succession Planning Can’t Wait
Here the authors use extensive data, case studies, and supporting information to make the case for why succession planning is so important.
Part 2: Be the Exception
In this section, you’ll read stories of successions that didn’t work out very well and what we can do differently.
Part 3: Transition Well, Finish Strong
This is where you’ll find practical tips on how to find a successor, how much this process may cost, how to prepare for the next pastor, and more. The authors are clear that there’s no magic formula to this process, but they offer several suggestions based on research and experience.
The key principles I took away from this book include:
- Pastors should begin planning for succession as soon as they become the senior pastor.
- The details of how to plan for and handle pastoral succession are not “one size fits all.”
- Succession planning isn’t simply an organizational matter with no Biblical basis or pattern to follow. Jesus trained the apostles; the apostles also trained new leaders to carry on their work.
- Diligent planning and learning from experts does not mean we’re taking God out of the process. “Our sense is that God does use people and systems in conjunction with the Holy Spirit to help build leadership teams in the church.”
- By planning for your succession, you help the church remain healthy into the long-term.
- Succession planning should focus on what happens when you decide to retire, however, you should also have a plan should the unexpected happen (sudden illness, death, etc.).
- This isn’t a one-and-done exercise. Once your leadership team has a succession plan in-place, revisit it annually to make sure you’re on-track.
- Develop a leadership pipeline. This includes sharing the preaching and the leading with staff who have leadership potential. Become a mentor way before you’re ready to retire.
- “…leaders who continually plan and pray for the next chapter for their church will almost always have a better ending and a brighter future than those who do not.”
- Remember, this isn’t your church. As one pastor noted, “This is Jesus’s church, but he’s given it to me for the next season.”
If you’re the senior pastor and either don’t have a succession plan or the one you have hasn’t been reviewed in a while, this book is an excellent resource. You’ll find helpful tips for you, your leadership team, congregation, and successor.
If you’re on the church board, this book can help you figure out how to initiate this discussion with your pastor and working with him to develop a plan.
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