In 2014, I had a front row seat to the handoff of senior leadership of a multi-mega church from one Lead Pastor to another. Serving on the Executive Team at that time I had the privilege of having a behind the scenes view to the whole thing, start to finish.
Scott Ridout, who now serves as the President of Converge Worldwide a movement of over 1,300 churches that have joined together to start and strengthen churches, served in leadership at Sun Valley Community Church for 16 years before handing it off to Chad Moore who now serves as the Lead Pastor.
Both are fantastic leaders and even better men. Now a couple of years removed from leading through that transition with them there are a few things that stand out to me that made the transition successful. If your church will be going through a leadership transition in the future you may want to keep these principles in mind.
Hired from the Inside
Chad had joined the staff at Sun Valley back in 2004 and had already been on the team for 10 years when this transition happened. When you like the culture that you have you hire from the inside, when you want to change the culture you hire from the outside.
Public and Private Trust
As a result of leading together up close and over time trust had been built with 4 unique and important audiences. The church body, the staff, the board, and of course trust had been built between Chad and Scott. That public buy-in and private trust provided a foundation for the transition to succeed.
Reflection of our Culture
Due to his tenure at Sun Valley, Chad embodied the culture we were trying to create. If we had hired someone from the outside it would have marked a change in culture and with it a period of turmoil.
A High Capacity Leader is Essential
While both men are fantastic leaders, they are different leaders. But they are both high capacity leaders. While gifted uniquely they both have a high capacity. When there’s a new leader you don’t want people hoping that they’ll grow into the role. We didn’t have to worry about that in this case.
The Right Timing
The best time to make a baton handoff is at full speed. The best time to make change in a church is when you have momentum. Sun Valley had just gone multisite 3 years prior to this succession and was (and still is today) experiencing new growth.
A Clear Next Step for the Exiting Pastor
Scott had a very clear calling in all of this to become the next President of Converge. Without a clear next step for the exiting Sr. Pastor this would have gone completely different.
I could have easily led with this one. Humility was the chief characteristic that provided the right environment for the transition to be as successful as it was. Both men chose to do what was best for the church at every juncture in the process rather than grasp for power, prestige, preference or position.
If you want to learn more about succession planning for Sr. Pastors or need help with one at your church, I’d recommend my friend William Vanderbloemen to you. To learn more you can check out an interview I did with him about his book Next: Pastoral Succession that Works