Tag Archive - transition

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7 Lessons from a Sr. Pastor Succession Plan that Worked

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.

Humility

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


Posted in Leadership, Staffing

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How to Leave your Church

No matter what style or size of church you serve in, no matter what title you have behind your name, there is one thing that every person in ministry has in common. At some point in the near or distant future, you will leave your current ministry position.

Unfortunately these leadership transitions often result in unnecessary damage to both the ministry staff person and the church because there was no plan in place when it came time for the leader to leave. I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember any class in Bible College or the latest ministry conference I attended that helped prepare ministry leaders to leave well.

I think we would all quickly agree that leaving well saves a lot of heartache for all involved. What we might not consider is that the way we leave affects the place we are going just as much as the place we are leaving. If you supervise staff, the same principle applies. How ministry staff exit your team affects the ministry they are going to just as much as it effects your ministry.

I recently had coffee with a long time leader in college ministry named Mike who shared about his upcoming retirement and his organization’s plan for helping him leave his position well. At its heart, the strategy is about leverage leaving for a greater future impact. There are four steps.

1. Release

The first step is to prepare to release responsibility and relationships in your current position. The ministry leaders I know, give 110% and devote themselves to the people they serve. This makes releasing especially difficult when it comes time to transition. Before exiting the position, prepare yourself or your staff member to let go and not be surprised at the very normal loss that comes with the change in roles. There is also a normal desire to want to protect that ministry, which may cause a leader to hold on too tightly or stay involved too long. If you are leaving a position but not leaving the church, releasing will mean being strategically uninvolved in that particular ministry area until new leadership is established. Fully letting go of the responsibilities and authority of that position will also help you have both hands free to grab hold of what God wants next for you.

2. Rest

The second step is to rest. When moving from one position to the next, sometimes we don’t leave any cushion between past and future. Typically, we have some room to negotiate when it comes to start dates as we move into a new position. Strategically schedule time to rest and refresh during the transition. You need it. When you schedule time to rest, really rest. We’re only fooling ourselves if we take a week off, but use that time to read the latest book on church growth while sketching out a strategic plan for the next 90 days of ministry. Those are actually good things, but not rest. Do things that fill your tank and give you energy. If you are in a supervisory role and you can do it, give your staff member that is exiting financial support as they take time to rest.

3. Refocus

The third step is to refocus. It’s important to ask good questions during the transition. What are my areas of strength and God given talent? What do I love doing? What changes have occurred in me during the last stretch of ministry that have taught me about my unique call to ministry? If you are married, ask your spouse, “What do you think I am best suited for in ministry?” Schedule time to pray, journal and get counsel from those you trust. I believe God wants to give us the gift of insight when we leave a ministry position. This is true whether you are leaving because of your decision or the church’s decision. Take advantage of it. Also, if it has been a painful leave, there are many retreat centers across the nation to help ministry leaders gain clarity and healing as they begin the next chapter. Practically speaking, this could also be a time to invest in some personality or leadership style assessments, get needed training and put more tools in your ministry tool belt.

4. Reengage

Finally, move forward and reengage. This starts by reengaging with the people in your new area of ministry. If you had great friends in your previous setting it can be hard to do the work of establishing new relationships. The reason you had close relationships in the previous church is probably not because they were more loving and nicer people. It’s probably because you did the hard work to connect, get to know them and have shared experiences. Take the bull by the horns on this one and start building new relationships. This is key to leading well. You cannot lead well if you don’t love well. You also have to reengage when it comes to the culture and systems of your new environment. You can’t just bring everything you did in the previous church and apply it to this new setting. A good leader learns the culture and contextualizes leadership in that culture. Here is a quick tip. Principles transfer much more effectively than programs. Principles about people and leadership are typically universal.

If you are transitioning into a new position, leverage leaving for greater future impact. Release. Rest. Refocus. Reengage. Everyone involved will be healthier for it.


This is a guest post by Brian LaMew who serves as the Pastor of Campus Development at Sun Valley Community Church where he provides leadership to Sun Valley’s Campus Pastors. You can keep up with Brian on Twitter or Facebook.


Posted in Leadership, Staffing

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6 Qualities of a Leader I’ve Followed

Over 18 years of full-time ministry I’ve had the opportunity to work some great leaders and my friend Scott Ridout is one of the best. Scott has recently been appointed to be the next President of Converge Worldwide, the movement of churches that Sun Valley (the church I serve at) is a part of. I don’t single out individual leaders as examples very often, and if you knew Scott, he’d be embarrassed by the fact that I’m even writing this, but I believe the best place to learn leadership is from leaders. And I think there is a lot we can learn from the way Scott has led. So here are 6 qualities of a leader that I’ve personally followed…

1. Humility

When most leaders these days protect, posture, and hang onto their leadership power, Scott consistently shares and gives it away. He isn’t afraid of other strong leaders, rather he recruits them to his team and then frees them to excel and lead in their area of brilliance. Even if that means submitting at times to others where they bring strength to the team. This has allowed him to build and keep a high performing team when they could have gone elsewhere.

2. Courageous

Scott doesn’t shy away from risk. When it became apparent that Sun Valley Gilbert, the original Sun Valley Campus, would eventually max out on attendance due to property, parking and facility constraints Scott had the courage to lead the Board to consider not just planting new churches (which he has led the church to plant more than 20 churches in his time as Sr. Pastor), but take the risk of going multisite. When the opportunity to adopt a church to be a Sun Valley Campus came up, Scott took the risk to leave the original campus to build the Sun Valley culture at the new location. Leadership always requires risk, growth, and loss; and Scott courageously embraces them all.

3. Shepherding

Unlike many high profile leaders Scott is consistently available. He makes it a priority to get to know his staff and their families. Even intentionally scheduling time to take them out to dinner to invest in those relationships outside the context of work. If you’ve ever served on a team that Scott has led you knew that your leader cared deeply for you, not just the performance that he could get out of you.

4. Resolute

Years ago when Scott became the Sr. Pastor of Sun Valley he successfully grew the church from 400 to 200. A little known fact he jokes about now. But he didn’t give up on the dream that God put in his heart. Scott is disciplined in his daily pursuit of what God has called him to lead the Church to become. Today Sun Valley runs more than 5,000 people in attendance across 3 campuses. Much of that is due to the fact that Scott didn’t give up even when things got difficult.

5. Coach

Scott is a coach at heart. He loves seeing others get better and he loves helping them get better. He’s a trainer and has built a culture on his teams of insentient tinkering and improvement. He himself has taken on the posture of a learner and in doing so encourages a culture of learning.

6. Moral Authority

Scott leads with moral authority. If he expects his team to be in a small group, he’s going to be in a small group. What you see on stage, is what you get in person. He is the same person, all the time. His public life, personal life, and private life align.

Photo Credit: Kay Gaensler via Compfight cc


Posted in Leadership, Spiritual Formation

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5 Articles to Help Your Church Make Vision Real

Thank you for helping make November one of the best months ever here at Helping Churches Make Vision Real! It’s great to connect with you on this blog and through social media. I’m always glad to hear that the content has been helpful. You made these the top 5 Posts from this last month. If you missed out on any of them, here they are all in one place for your convenience!

#1 8 Reasons Why People Don’t Volunteer at Your Church

I’ve never worked with a church that has said they don’t need more volunteers. But I’ve worked with a bunch of churches that have trouble getting people to volunteer and stay engaged volunteering. This is a critical issue for churches to figure out. The reason why this has to be a front-burner issue is because at the heart of it, volunteering is an essential component of the discipleship process in someone’s life. Plainly put, volunteering is discipleship. Understanding that, here are 8 reasons people aren’t volunteering in your church…and subsequently aren’t growing in their relationship with God.

#2 Early Warning Signs Your Church is in Trouble

Many churches have a tendency to measure attendance and money as their primary indicators for success, and not necessarily always in that order. There are a lot of other indicators that churches can measure to understand if they’re winning or not (baptisms, 1st time guests, and how many people are in bible studies just to name a few). Early indicators that a church is in trouble are often more difficult to detect however. Similar to the way many life threatening diseases behave a church can look healthy on the outside while wasting away on the inside. And like a life threatening disease it can be very difficult to detect. Here are a few early indicators your church should be paying attention to:

#3 3 Reasons Why Big Churches Keep Getting Bigger

Recently Leadership Network published an article in which they shared the following research about megachurches (a Protestant congregation with 2,000 or more weekly attendees – both adults and children):

  • In 1970 there were less than 25 megachurches in all of North America
  • In 1983 there were less than 100 megachurches in the United States
  • Today there are more than 1,650 megachurches in North America (roughly 1,625 in the United States and 25 in Canada)

All of that means this past weekend of those who went to a Protestant Church in North America, 1 out of 10 went to a megachurch. The megachurch phenomenon of recent history doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. In fact it seems to be growing, even outside of North America big churches are getting bigger. But why?

#4 Why Churches Refuse to Change

In the “real world,” change is normal, it’s expected, and it’s even celebrated! When your team wins the Super Bowl no one ever looks around and complains about the stadium being too full. When your business takes ground and expands no one ever complains about experiencing success. When a new child is born into a family no grandparent complains about having to buy more Christmas presents. Change like this is celebrated. So much so, that we go around and show pictures of our new grandchild to everyone, we leverage the success of our business, and we buy t-shirts and other paraphernalia from the winning football team.

In the church it’s different. Even if it means growing, reaching more people, planting a new church, taking a risk, or even simply making the right change so that the church can be more effective with it’s mission; most churches avoid change like the plague. Here are a few reasons why:

#5 How to Keep Your Team When the Game is Changing

In any growing church or organization there are going to be moments where the team that got you where you are, will not have the ability to get you where you need to go. This usually becomes an incredibly painful and difficult moment. In fact many churches get stuck here because they refuse to address the issue in an appropriate manner. What do you do when staff members begin to hit a leadership lid? Do you have any other course of action to take besides replacing them? How do you navigate these moments? The options below should help:


Posted in Leadership

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How to Keep Your Team When the Game is Changing

In any growing church or organization there are going to be moments where the team that got you where you are, will not have the ability to get you where you need to go. This usually becomes an incredibly painful and difficult moment. In fact many churches get stuck here because they refuse to address the issue in an appropriate manner. What do you do when staff members begin to hit a leadership lid? Do you have any other course of action to take besides replacing them? How do you navigate these moments? The options below should help:

1. Clarify Expectations

I’ve never met a church staff member who wants to do a bad job at work, but I’ve met plenty who don’t know what’s expected of them at work. Have you taken the time to set clear performance expectations and measure results over determined periods of time and evaluate the results together? Sometimes as the church grows and changes expectations change.

2. Recast Vision

As the church goes through different phases of growth there are natural seasons where team members may simply need to “re-up” for the next season of ministry. Have you recast vision to team members and given them the opportunity to “re-up” for this next season?

3. Provide Training

If the team member understands and reflects the culture that you’re trying to build and they relationally fit the team, then they’re probably worth investing in. Have you determined if there are new skills that the team member needs that you can provide through training?

4. Deal with the Facts

People don’t always believe the truth about themselves (newsflash). Some of your team members don’t know what they’re brilliant at and what they should be avoiding. Part of your job as the team leader is to help your team take a soberminded approach to their role in the church. Here’s a tip: when you have these conversations focus on facts, not feelings.

5. Right People in the Right Seats

As the church is growing and team members hit lids one of the first issues to consider is do you have the right people in the right seats on the bus? Instead of removing the team member could you move them to another role or hire someone over them?

6. Honest Conversations

In the process of these conversations I cannot overvalue the need to have consistent, honest, real-time conversations with your team. If you want to coach your team members through seasons of change and leadership lids it’s going to take candid conversations.

If your church is stuck and needs help moving into the future consider partnering with The Unstuck Group to help guide you through a staffing and structure review. We’d be happy to help you develop a plan that will move you forward!


Posted in Staffing