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Healthy Transitions in Ministry

Healthy Transitions in Ministry

Transition CPR

Most people in vocational ministry, especially those of us in student ministry, will go through a transition at some point. Whether it’s making a role shift within a ministry or moving from one church to another, the process of transitioning is one that impacts us deeply, and not only us, it can impact our family, friends, and community at the deepest levels.

Personally, I have experienced two – the second being just this past month. Regardless of your situation, you can do a few things to create a healthy transition – not for your sake, but for the church, ministry, and people you have served.

Let me share a guide for transition that I’ve found helpful in my own experience. (It’s got the somewhat ironic acronym C.P.R.)

C – Communication

First, create and carry out a communication plan that includes everyone who needs to hear the news from you. If a student or volunteer hears about your move through the grapevine, it will hurt them and will impact your relationship moving forward. Here are 3 communication tips:

Tip 1: Follow the right order.

You will need to determine your own order, but this is the order I most recently used:

  1. Church staff/leaders (1 on 1)
  2. Student Ministry Volunteers (1 on 1)
  3. Student Leaders (1 on 1)
  4. Students (Tell the whole group at your regularly scheduled meeting time)
  5. Families (Empower students to share the news and send a follow up email)
  6. Church-Wide (From you, preferably in a weekend service)

Tip 2: Ask for Confidentiality.

With each group, ask for confidentiality until a set date, which would be your church-wide announcement. Communicating in the right order is useless if people share your news prematurely.

Tip 3: Keep it to a two-week window.

The time between your first conversation with someone on staff and the entire church should be two weeks or less. Asking people for confidentiality for two weeks is realistic – asking for two months is not.

P – Process

Now that you have communicated your transition, you need to give people time to process your departure. The best way for them to process is to process with you. So I recommend being on staff and present at least two weeks after your church-wide announcement. This will give you time to sit down for coffee, or throw football one last time. Like hearing your news through the grapevine, an abrupt exit will leave people hurt. Give the people you have invested in the gift of time and space to laugh with you, cry with you, and just be with you. They’ll need it, and so will you.

R – Run

With a new job lined up, your biggest temptation will be to check out, don’t do it.

Run to the finish line! Once your end date is determined, consider that the end of a 100-yard sprint and give it everything you’ve got. If you have the luxury of overlapping with your replacement, make them your top priority and cover every detail you can think of. If you don’t have an overlap, leave everything in good order (files, ministry property, etc.) and commit to at least one lengthy conversation with the individual once they are hired. Running to the finish line is the hardest part of a transition, but it is crucial.

Transitions are never easy, but following these simple principles can make your transition rewarding. It’s an intentional way of honoring the people and ministry you’ve faithfully served while also remaining faithful to the new calling God has given you. Remember, working hard to create a healthy transition is a not ultimately about you – it’s for the church, ministry, and people you have loved and served.

Josh Rhodes
NextGen Pastor at LCBC Church
Josh is the Next Steps Director at LCBC Church, York Campus. Prior to LCBC, he served at Chestnut Ridge Church in Morgantown, WV. Josh received a Bachelor of Science in Biblical Studies and Youth Ministries from Lancaster Bible College, and a Master of Arts in Theology from Biblical Seminary. He and his wife Hillary live in Lancaster with their three children - Sephora, Levi, and Pierce.