What I see happening
A couple of weeks back I had the opportunity to join a regional church network to share a little bit of what I see happening in the year ahead. The short version is this: I believe that we are going to see a significant turnover in church leadership in 2021. That may not be mind-blowing information, given the way things have been going of late, but what I have found to be intriguing is why this is happening.
- Accelerated Succession: In the last six months or so I have had several conversations with pastors of a certain age who are beginning to accelerate their succession planning. Whether it was a realization that they have fulfilled their unique calling in that specific church, an understanding that the next season of ministry requires a fresh vision in order to truly reach their communities, or a recognition that their skills and abilities do not match what the church needs for the current ministry environment, we are hearing from many pastors that they believe that it is time for them to begin the success process now.
- Exhaustion: The vast majority of conversations that I am having include some variation of the phrase "in all my years of ministry, I have never seen anything like this..." It has been a tough season and many pastors are tired. Tired of all of the pivots, tired of talking to their computer, and tired of always being wrong. This is causing a number of pastors and ministry staff to begin to look for a new place to serve and begin again. In some cases, this is totally appropriate, in others, it is an attempt to avoid the hard work that is still to be done at their church.
- Fresh Sense of Calling: This primarily applies to youth pastors, worship pastors, and similar ministry staff roles. We are seeing a ton of people realizing that it is time for them to lean into a new ministry role like senior or executive pastor. Much of this can be attributed to the assumption of more responsibility through the course of the last year and realizing that God may be calling them to something new. While this may be painful for their church this is ultimately an exciting season for each of these ministers as they pursue God's calling in a new direction.
- Consider Interim Pastoral Ministry: One of the most difficult parts of the succession process for many pastors is to consider what the next season of their life looks like. For many, the ministry is all that they have ever known and they still feel that they have much to give. If you are in this situation, I would urge you to consider becoming an intentional interim pastor. In my current role, I am deeply convinced that the Church needs more intentional interims to help the transition process. To that end, I cannot recommend Interim Pastor Ministries enough. If you are attempting to discern what's next, I would encourage you to have a conversation with the team at IPM.
- Don't go it alone: This has been an exhausting season of ministry in isolation. For many of the pastors I connect with they admit that they really do not have a safe place to truly process what they are experiencing. I would encourage you to find someone outside of your church to connect with: out of town ministry friends, a counselor that is unfamiliar with your church, or a mentor that knows you well. If you are struggling to find a safe community of ministry friends, Reggie McNeal is gathering together a cohort of pastors to help make the journey from surviving in ministry to thriving.
- Lean into discernment: If you are currently contemplating what your next season of ministry looks like, I would encourage you to reach out to experienced pastors who serve in roles similar to what you believe you are being called to. Buy them coffee, learn about what they do, and ask them to pray with you in this discernment journey. If you are considering stepping into an executive pastor, or other second chair leadership role, I would strongly suggest Mike Bonem's Becoming a Second Chair Leader lab that is designed to help you learn about what those roles require.