“It isn't the changes that do you in, it’s the transitions.” — W. Bridges*
Change is situational and transition is the psychological process people go through to come to terms with the new situation (according to W. Bridges). Unless transition occurs, change will not work.
“There can be any number of changes, but unless there are transitions, nothing will be different when the dust clears.” — W. Bridges
We see this in our personal lives and in the congregations we serve.
Transition begins with an ending, moves into the neutral zone, then enters into a new beginning phase.
1. An ending
Transition begins with an ending and a letting go. Israelite's were given the opportunity to let go of Egypt as the first step in their transitional journey to the Promised Land. Their ending involved a radical event and was the intervention strategy God used to launch them on their journey...
Are you more like a soldier or a scout?
A soldier’s job is to protect and defend a position. A scout’s job is to seek out and explore new possibilities. Two distinct approaches with very different outcomes.
In his book, The Book of Beautiful Questions, Warren Berger suggests that scout like behavior gives a leader a definite advantage.
During times of change and transition, this is especially true. We need flexibility and approach situations as scouts who are on the look out for new possibilities, new ideas, and new ways forward.
“The mindset of a scout is rooted in curiosity. Scouts are more likely to say they feel pleasure when they learn new information or solve a puzzle. They’re more likely to feel intrigued when they encounter something that contradicts their expectations.”*
Leaders with scout-like behavior have what’s called intellectual humility.
Intellectual humility is “a state of openness...
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...
“Yesterday’s solutions and procedures may not provide an adequate or appropriate response to the present challenges. Hence, the biggest hurdles facing long-time leaders may not be in learning new insights and skills, but in unlearning what they consider to be tried and true and what thus provides them with a false sense of security.”
— Eddie Gibbs in Leadership Next
Your biggest challenge in working with a congregation in transition, may not be to simply find the right map to follow but in helping them unlearn what might be holding them captive to past solutions.
An analogy I've found helpful in thinking about the role of a traveling companion and coach to congregations in transition (of any kind) is to see our role not as map readers but as navigators. I give credit to Leonard Hjalmarson in his book, Broken Futures, for reminding me of this way of framing the work we do (a book I recommend you add to your reading list).
Eddie Gibbs says further,...