I interviewed our CEO and Founder, William Vanderbloemen, on what succession is, why it’s more important than ever, and what the future of succession should look like post-pandemic. We talked about the passion and reasoning behind William’s newest book, the expanded and updated edition of Next: Pastoral Succession that Works, which provides insight into navigating leadership changes with wisdom and grace. He shared what he would have said in Next had he knew the impacts of COVID-19.
Succession is no longer just a retirement conversation, it is a readiness conversation. So how do we acknowledge the inevitable reality of succession and prepare for the future of the church?
What is succession?
Pastoral succession is about the handoff from one pastor’s tenure to another, it’s not about one pastor figuring out what they do after their leadership. It is a forward-looking holistic look at the church body and all of its components. Succession planning asks questions like, “What has God done through this pastor, what growth took place through the board in this time, and how does the board prepare for the next chapter?” There are many pieces to the church ecosystem and how it will shift under new leadership. Discussions on these topics should not happen when a pastor is on the way out, instead, these should be regular planning discussions with leaders and their boards.
Why is succession THE issue churches will have to deal with?
Succession will forever be a church issue, but over the next 10 years, it is THE issue churches will have to wrestle with. The supply of incoming pastors will be short of the demand due to birth rate trends. When the current generation is fully retired, there will be far fewer people than necessary to fill the space, leading to a huge leadership issue within the next ten years. Without enough pastors to step in, you’re either going to have to develop a pipeline that allows for a higher risk with a less experienced person or you will have to do a pastoral search to bring in a person from the outside.
What are some of the changes you have seen in succession?
Pastors are now realizing they don’t have as much time as they thought to lay out future plans for themselves and their church. It is beneficial to prepare for succession early and leave plenty of time for the transition to take place. With so many unforeseen departures in leadership, this is no longer a retirement conversation, but a readiness conversation. We often see young people go into ministry with enormous passion, but it may not be ministry for life. In this scenario and so many others where pastors leave unexpectedly, the church is unprepared to be left without a leader.
Having a plan to be ready in the event of unforeseen circumstances is well worth doing. Whether you plan for an interim pastor or implement a temporary leader from within your church, having a plan for the unexpected will ease your mind if you do come across this situation.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Holly Tate