What do you do when your church has gone through a difficult time and the pastor leaves? What do you do when you have a pastor who served for a long period of time and then retires or leaves to pastor another church?
These are just two of the scenarios played out in the lives of churches. In each case, the church has a decision to make. Does the church forge ahead and find another pastor, or do you take some time to determine where you are as a church and where the church needs to go?
Churches that have gone through a rough time that ends with the pastor leaving often move swiftly to get a new pastor who will solve the problems or heal the body of the church. I understand why the church feels this way. Most of the time, churches think that a different pastor will cause the people to forget the past and unite around a new pastor who will bring a new future in his hip pocket. To be honest, it rarely works that way.
Or when a pastor has served a church for a long time, the church fails to realize that there needs to be time for their members to lift their eyes to the new future God desires for them. Loyalties and focus will of necessity change. Indeed if God would have wanted a church to remain the same, He would have left the pastor in place.
Too often churches move swiftly to call a pastor, and the results are less than best. In the first scenario mentioned above, rarely do wounds heal by ignoring them. Problems that exist in the church do not go away when a new pastor arrives. Often the same issues rise under the new pastor and before long, he is on his way to another place of service. The church is not healthy and needs time to heal. In the second setting, the next pastor is often called an unintentional interim. He becomes the bridge between the former long-term pastor and the new pastor. This interim pastor’s tenure is short.
There is a better way—a proven approach that helps churches to methodically, effectively and spiritually walk through a process that allows the church body to heal, seek the Lord for direction and then seek a pastor who fits the vision God has given to the church. This process is called the Transitional Pastor Ministry.
A transitional pastor is a man of God who is trained in a very specific process to help churches deal with the past and prepare for the future. These men spend several months, sometimes as much as a year, working with the church and leading the membership through a very thorough and strategic process of healing and envisioning the future.
The transitional pastor leads a team representative of church membership. This team spends hours together, considering the past, present and future of the church. In the end, this team produces a plan of action the church adopts. This plan does not tie the hands of a new pastor but gives him opportunity to see the heart of the church and determine whether he is a match. In addition, the church seeks to solve its problems during the transition time rather than asking a new pastor to try to do so in the first few months, which can alienate many people.
I have seen the end result of the Transitional Pastor Ministry many times across Oklahoma. While not a perfect plan, this plan has demonstrated remarkable results in churches of all sizes. A church returns to health and a dynamic expectancy as the new pastor comes to lead the flock of God.
If your church needs help, please contact Brett Selby at the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO) at 405/942-3800 Ext. 4401. He will arrange for someone to come present the plan to your church and help match your church with a trained transitional pastor to lead you. The BGCO’s goal is healthy churches on mission for Christ and His glory. I am confident this is your goal also.