Many of us have dreams of going to our first ministry and staying for fifty years, but the Lord’s plan may be different. Numerous times in Scripture we see God commanding Spirit-filled men to move. Transitioning from one ministry to another is not necessarily a bad thing; indeed, many times it is sheer obedience. Here are some helpful suggestions that have benefited me in times of transition.
1. This new ministry has likely chosen you to adjust and/or correct what they perceive to be shortcomings in the previous administration. You are different by design. Therefore, you should not seek to mirror the previous administration.
2. The previous administration was in place because it was God’s timing for them. Therefore, do not throw them under the bus. Be gracious. Compliment the way God used them. Before removing any landmarks, ask questions as to why those landmarks were erected.
3. Honor the past. Many in your ministry made sacrifices to bring that ministry to its present state. Let them know that you are aware of those sacrifices. Throw roses to the previous administration to the degree that it is ethical to do so. Honoring them will in no way hurt your authority. It will buttress it.
4. Refuse to be selfish. When someone compliments the previous pastor, agree with them. It is natural for congregants to respect the previous pastor. They may continue to love the previous pastor more. That does not mean that you cannot have influence or be their pastor in the fullest sense of the word.
5. What worked in your previous church may not work in your current church simply because of cultural differences between congregations. Your new church should not sense that you are trying to make them a mirrored copy of your previous church. They want to feel that you have left that congregation and are now their pastor with your whole heart.
6. Don’t be afraid to make changes when changes are necessary. Though change for change’s sake is not recommendable, change is an inevitable part of any ministry. People often resist change at its inception but are thankful that it happened after the fact.
7. You do not need a 100% vote to implement change. Any time that we feel a vote must be unanimous we have allowed the minority to curtail progress.
8. Seek to work with existing staff. Even though the staff was picked by your predecessor, they have a window into the history of which you were not a part. Therefore, seek to love them. Honor them with your presence. Honor them financially. Honor them with words of praise from the pulpit.
9. Leaders by definition are visionaries. Therefore, you cannot and must not maintain the status quo of the previous administration. You are there to bring your unique skill set to the development of your church. Therefore, dream big and plan accordingly.
10. Remember that transitions can be hard on your family. Your wife had her niche in the church you left, and there may be no room for that niche in the new church. The perceived role of the pastor’s wife is different in each congregation, and it may take time for the new church to understand that their expectation of your wife is not your expectation of your wife. Your wife and children have left friends and security behind. Be sensitive to their loneliness, fears, and tears.
11. Pray. You are in over your head. The battles that you face are not flesh and blood battles. You need the supernatural power of God to accomplish what needs to be done, to win the hearts of the people, and to be successful. Pray as if everything depends upon God, for it does.