How to Send Well
Dealing with transition on staff, Part 3
Our main goal at the Church Multiplication Network is to see a healthy church in every community in America. I’m proud to say we are well on our way to accomplishing that. It’s being done through the hard work of church planters starting brand new works, young pastors taking over established churches, and existing churches continuing to grow in health.
It is a rule of God’s natural world that healthy things grow, and growing things change. You know it’s true; just look at your yard. If it’s healthy, you’ll see growth. Some of it is hard to see, like an elm tree that’s been there for a while. Other growth is easier to see, like the grass that needs cutting weekly during the summer.
When it comes to your church, it’s easy to focus on numerical growth. That may or may not be easy to see. But don’t be so zeroed in on the growth part of a healthy church that you miss the change part. As your ministry continues on, it will take different shapes. You may have a new emphasis. And you may add or subtract staff along the way.
Transitioning well is not just about how to add staffers when you need them. It also involves managing the changes when a staff member leaves. Staff turnover can be a source of tension, or it can be seen as an opportunity. How you handle it could determine the continued health of your church.
Taking the right view of staff turnover is essential to being an impactful leader. How you send off people from your team can put a spotlight on your ability or inability to lead. So, what perspective do you have on it?
You can view it negatively. Maybe you think anyone who leaves your staff willingly is disloyal. Or maybe you’re just upset that a hole has been left. A negative perspective, though, will lead to bitterness, feelings of jealousy and anger, or just plain possessiveness.
On the other hand, when you view it positively, it can make a huge difference. Great leaders raise up and send out great leaders. They realize they can’t do it all alone in one place. They need more room to grow. Transitions can be opportunities for that growth.
Commissioning members of your team to continue the Great Commission elsewhere is what great disciple-making requires. How are you looking at it?
Changing Your Lens
How do you go from a negative to a positive perspective on staff transition? It’s going to take a heart work. Be honest with yourself. Are you possessive about your staffers, or are you willing to let them go? It may surprise you if you take a real hard look.
Taking the right view of staff turnover is essential to being an impactful leader.
If you’ve identified the need to make a change and see staff transition differently, below are three things to do. And if you think you’re actually good at navigating change already, then use these as a guideline for getting better.
1. Celebrate the past. Make sure to spend time honoring their contributions to your church. Don’t let a staff person slip out the door without letting everyone know, the staff and congregation included, what that individual meant to your church. Find a few people the staff member positively impacted, and have them give a testimony.
Celebrating the past is just that: a celebration. So, why not throw a party? It will help the whole team shift their perspective. It also gives them one last time to spend quality time with a close friend.
Finally, pray and commission the outgoing staff member for his or her new work. Be willing to show your love and support for what comes next.
2. Connect in the present. Stay in touch with staff members who leave on good terms. Invite them back to speak, if it’s appropriate, and don’t turn down an invitation to visit their church.
Another way to stay in touch is to offer your help at any time. Think of it as an extension of the mentoring you were already doing.
One pastor I know who has been in ministry for over 50 years at the same church had been investing in a certain staff member to take over for him upon retirement. The pastor got a call that a nearby church was needing a new senior pastor, and he knew his associate was perfect for it. He didn’t want to let this pastor go, but he knew it was the right thing to do. He chose to see this as an extension of the work he had been doing, instead of viewing it as a loss.
3. Commit to the future. God has a blessing planned for each person you send away. Just think about what the future holds for those individuals — and realize you get to be a major part of it!
Commit to pray for them, be a resource if you can, reconnect whenever you’re available, and always welcome them back at a later date. Your commitment to your staff can live on after they’re gone, if you send them out the right way.
Recently, I spoke with Pastor J. Don George about this same thing. A person who was on his staff for several years left to take a senior pastor position elsewhere. God spoke to Pastor George and told him that it was necessary, that this staff member needed to develop his own ministry skills. So Pastor George made an investment in his future.
Years later, as Pastor George was preparing to transition out of his full-time senior pastor position, God put this staff member back in his path. Pastor George recommended the board contact him, and within months, he was installed as the new senior pastor.
You never know what the future holds when a staff member leaves. Transitions can be tricky and are sometimes ugly. But when you commit to changing your perspective and send each one off the right way, God can do amazing things you never thought of.