Working with churches in transition is challenging work and requires a certain type of leadership. The season of transition is messy and filled with a wide range of emotions and experiences.
After spending a few days training some transitional leaders and hearing stories from the front line, I made a few observations and gained some fresh insights I wanted to share with you hear. Feel free to add to this conversation.
1. To learn new skills you have to get uncomfortable.
Pastors are often ill-equipped to be coach-like facilitative change management specialists. They must learn to use and strengthen new muscles. They must be aware of their learning gaps and be willing to go through the awkwardness of unlearning behaviors that get in the way of being an effective transitional pastor, leader, and coach.
It’s not easy or automatic to make the shift to a more coach-like approach to ministry. Pastors are trained to tell, direct, and speak. Transitional leaders must learn to listen, collaborate, and facilitate. To get from “here” to “there” is an uncomfortable journey that is not quick or easy.
2. To have knowledge does not mean you have understanding.
There is no shortage of information. You can find answers from Google for pretty much anything. What you need is wisdom and the insight to apply your learning.
Transitional leaders with head knowledge on how to change things are not even on first base when it comes to actually being able to help a congregation navigate the change journey. It requires trial and error and learning in the arena of action, one step at a time.
3. Closure is more challenging than it first appears.
There seems to be a common thread among congregations who lose a pastor, especially when the exit was smooth. They are blind to their need for a thorough and long enough season of closure.
Why is that? I’m wondering if it’s because people don’t process loss very well emotionally. I see it in life and I see it in congregations. Well healed congregations make wiser decisions about their future. If they move too quickly to future decision making before they are emotionally ready, there are negative consequences.
4. Coaches need coaching.
I’m a coach who needs coaching. I’m a mentor who needs mentoring. Transitional leaders need a coach and a community of practice to be at their best.
The need is there especially when you start out, but it never goes away. Having peers and others to speak into your life as a leader (outside of the congregation you serve) helps you grow in self-awareness, confidence, competence, and courage. You don’t see it all or have all the wisdom you need for any given assignment.
5. Life-long learning is underrated.
There is so much to learn and so little time. Of course, no one can learn it all but you can hunger for learning and be continually improving. Learning applies to so many areas and is a bottomless well we can keep drawing from.
Things keep changing so if we bring the resources, knowledge, and expertise we gleaned yesterday without adding new learning today, we will bee obsolete before we know it. What will you be reading this summer?
6. Forget about a balanced life — go for balancing your life.
Balance is a future state that’s unattainable. Balancing, on the hand, is a fluid dynamic you can work as ongoing process. If you are “out of balance” spiritually or physically or relationally, you can give attention to those areas while at least maintaining the areas that are healthy.
Summer time is a great opportunity to work at balancing some of the areas that have become depleted by an intense season of work or ministry. The next 10 days, I’m turning off my email and allowing the balancing of life to take place. Where are you depleted and need to pay attention to?
7. Emotional intelligence trumps how smart you are.
The best leaders are not the ones with the highest marks or most years experience. They are the ones who know their strengths and weaknesses and are able to admit when they’re in over their head.
Emotional intelligent leaders take time to get away, reflect, and look in the mirror so that the Father can remind you how fond He is of you. You and I are at our best when we have the awareness of how we are showing up and what needs to change to be our best self.
I'm very grateful for the opportunity to do this work. Investing in leaders, coaching, training, facilitating, writing, speaking, mentoring, and discipling. Most of all, I’m grateful for the people I have the privilege to do life and ministry with. So many of those people are you!